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Friday, November 15, 2013

Consultation and Cultural Heritage: Let Us Reason Together

Left Coast Press will very shortly publish Consultation and Cultural Heritage: Let Us Reason Together, by Claudia Nissley and me (See http://www.lcoastpress.com/book.php?id=504).  The website says it will be available in March, 2014; we’re hoping it’ll be out a bit sooner than that.

Innumerable environmental and cultural resource/heritage laws, regulations, standards and guidelines, in the U.S. and throughout the world, call for “consultation,” but few say much about what it’s supposed to entail.  As a result, there’s a tendency to substitute things like formletters and public hearings for real consultation.



Our book’s subtitle – from Isaiah 1:18 – encapsulates our view that consultation is supposed to entail reasoning together, to seek a mutually agreeable outcome to some sort of actual or potential conflict or problem.  As the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) puts it:

Consultation means the process of seeking, discussing, and considering the views of other participants, and, where feasible, seeking agreement with them …. (36 CFR §800.16(f)).


Our book is built around the ACHP definition, discussing what each of those called-for actions – “seeking,” “discussing,” “considering” and “seeking agreement” – involves, suggesting effective ways of carrying out each such action, and flagging ways of “consulting” that are, to put it blandly, less then effective.  It’s based on our collective sixty-plus years of work in consultation under the National Historic Preservation Act and other U.S. laws, but it’s designed for use not only under U.S. law but wherever consultation about environmental and heritage matters takes place.  It would be nice to think that it may help improve the quality and effectiveness of consultation about such matters, but neither of us is holding breath.

And the cover art?  Rock art in Baja California, showing people throwing up their hands, what else?