Although metal detecting or treasure hunting is a fun hobby, and hunting for lost items in public use areas is considered relatively harmless, metal detector use on Fort Huachuca is strictly prohibited.
Over the past summer, Environmental and Natural Resource Division, or ENRD, personnel have encountered people using metal detectors at picnic areas and found evidence of metal detecting on historical archaeological sites.
Using metal detectors on archaeological sites and excavating and removing artifacts or natural resources impacts the integrity of the site and the legacy of Fort Huachuca. Therefore, the use of metal detectors for recreational purposes, including treasure trove searches, may lead to penalties.
The fort has more than 450 known archaeological sites, many of which are historical period ranching and military sites. These sites have yielded metal artifacts including military buttons and insignia, cartridges, coins and other interesting items. Therefore, there is a high probability of finding archaeological sites and artifacts when metal detecting on the installation. These resources are protected by Army and federal law.
Army regulations support the prohibition on metal detecting.
AR 200-4 “Cultural Resources” (section 2-6c), which references compliance with both the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Archaeological Resource Protection Act, or ARPA, states “The use of metal detectors to locate archaeological resources is prohibited on Army installations except when used by Army personnel, contractors or permittees in association with official cultural resource management activities or pursuant to a permit issued under ARPA.”
AR 405-80 “Real Estate” (paragraph 4-15f) states “Metal detectors may not be used by individuals on a military installation unless the individual is in search of a lost personal item or unless a license or contract as discussed above has been granted.”
Fort Huachuca Regulation 385-8 “Range and Training Area Operations” (paragraph 1-7b) expands this prohibition beyond metal detectors and states, “Collecting prehistoric or historic artifacts, fossils or old objects, or digging or destroying archeological or paleontological sites, is prohibited within the confines of Fort Huachuca. As part of the installation’s Cultural Resources Management Program, archeological projects may be conducted by assigned Army staff or professionals with proper authorization.”
Those using a metal detector on post can be given a warning and told they may be permanently barred from Fort Huachuca if they are caught again. Those found disturbing an archaeological site can be charged with theft of government property, a Class A misdemeanor. If the damage is extensive enough, first-time convictions under ARPA can result in fines up to $125,000 and two years in prison. ENRD personnel are currently drafting a Fort Huachuca regulation on metal detecting. Once it is finalized, Soldiers using metal detectors and disturbing historic sites will be subject to Article 92, disobeying a lawful order.
Metal detecting can also be dangerous. The potential for unexploded ordnance, or UXO, exists throughout Fort Huachuca, even where there are not current training areas. Range Control personnel regularly find artillery and mortar shells, hand grenades, land mines and small arms ammunition left from over 100 years of military training. Some of this ordnance is live and very dangerous if handled.
As a first step in combating metal detecting, ENRD personnel will post warning signs at various Fort Huachuca locations and install cameras at threatened archaeological sites.
A veteran Explosive Ordnance Division Soldier provided this advice to the author during a discussion on UXO, but which applies for natural and cultural resources on Fort Huachuca. “If you didn’t drop it, don’t pick it up.” Leave natural and cultural resources where they are found so they can be enjoyed and/or studied by others.
Besides metal detecting, collecting any archaeological remains, fossils or natural resources such as vegetation, bird nests and feathers, reptiles, minerals or other items on Fort Huachuca is prohibited and can lead to penalties and fines.
Those who see someone using a metal detector or impacting natural or cultural resources should immediately report the activity to the military police desk, 533.3000. Those with questions about metal detecting or cultural resources or who want to report an item of interest should contact ENRD, 533.4428.