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Taino petroglyphs carved into the rock of a stream bank on Reef Bay Trail in St. John, Virgin Islands National Park.

Cultural Resources in the Caribbean

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a rich culture and history. NRCS considers our cultural resources within our conservation planning process to ensure that our peoples retain a link to this non renewable resource.

NRCS Caribbean Archaeologist and Conservationists conduct Section 106 Cultural Resources assessment on a farm in Salinas, Puerto Rico, in July 2022.
NRCS Caribbean Conservationists and Pathways students conduct subsurface testing for Section 106 Cultural Resources assessment on a farm in Salinas, Puerto Rico, in August 2022.

Cultural resources or historic properties are physical remains of past human activity. These may include buildings (houses, churches, roadway workers’ homes), structures (earthworks, canals, ponds, dams, silos, dairy farms, mills, bridges, culverts), prehistoric or historic sites (petroglyphs, shell middens), as well as districts (sugar company towns, traditional urban centers, irrigation systems).

Cultural resources are nonrenewable and may yield unique information about past societies and environments and provide answers for modern day social and conservation problems. Although many have been discovered and protected, there are numerous forgotten, undiscovered, or unprotected cultural resources.

As part of conservation planning, NRCS aims to protect the cultural resources to the same degree as the natural resources on your farm. Keeping natural resources in balance helps provide the basis for a healthy and profitable farm environment; keeping cultural resources provides the basis for understanding our human past. The stewardship of these nonrenewable resources is an important link in the conservation ethic that underlies the NRCS mission. Several Federal, State, and local laws have been enacted to preserve cultural resources. The most important of these is the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Under this and other legislation, Federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, are required to protect cultural resources.

Cultural resources provide many useful benefits to people today. They:

  • Expand our knowledge and understanding of history,
  • Provide scientific data that can help solve conservation and natural resource problems (archeological sites can provide information on droughts, floods, and erosion over hundreds of years, for example), 
  • Provide jobs,
  • Stimulate community improvements, and
  • Attract tourism, among other benefits.

Marinés Colón-González

NRCS Caribbean Area Cultural Resources Specialist