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Grant To Help Preserve Wupatki Pueblo From The Effects Of Climate Change


A major grant from the Getty Foundation will help preserve ancient at-risk structures at Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff. According to archaeologists, a changing climate has made many culturally important sites throughout the Southwest increasingly vulnerable. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The $1.3 million grant will fund a program through the Center for Architectural Conservation at the University of Pennsylvania. It’ll develop an adaptive conservation and management plan for the 900-year-old Wupatki Pueblo.

According to project managers, climate change-driven extreme weather events have accelerated deterioration and damage to the structure and new preservation strategies will have to be developed. They also say the pueblo is at risk from seismic instability, flooding and debris slides.

“Reflective of contemporary concerns that address climate threat and cultural appropriation, this project will develop a framework for integrated site stewardship based on an understanding of sustainability as both a physical and cultural necessity,” says Frank Matero, director of the Center for Architectural Conservationand professor and chair in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Penn. “Identifying the vulnerabilities of sites like Wupatki is perhaps the most critical challenge currently facing all cultural and natural resource managers today. Mitigation, resilience, and adaptation in the form of renewed cultural partnerships with affiliated tribal communities will move the conservation needs front and center in this model project.”

The team plans to incorporate Indigenous values and practices into the stewardship program and hopes the model could inform similar efforts at other sites in the region.

The grant will also fund a program focused on involving Indigenous youth in the conservation of ancestral sites led by area tribes. Work on the project begins this fall and a final report on the effort is expected in 2024.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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