2012 Emailed responses to Legislators

Here are a few emails that have been sent to legislators.....

620 RSA Union Building
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
TO: Members of the Alabama Senate
FROM: Jim Bennett , Commissioner February 10, 2012

Dear Colleagues:
I am writing this letter in support of SB 81 concerning diving and recovery of single artifacts from the bottoms of Alabama waterways. The law on this subject needs to be made clear for divers and law enforcement officers alike and the revisions included in this legislation would do that.

Having been associated with the Iron & Steel Museum of Alabama at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park since its inception, I have firsthand knowledge of the valuable addition to our collections and exhibits of artifacts recovered by responsible divers who offer their finds to museums. A major part of our Civil War exhibits come from this one source.
It is certainly better that these pieces of our state history be preserved and protected for the public to view, appreciate and understand than leaving them at the bottom of some long forgotten river bottom.More than 400,000 people each year visit Tannehill and can view 
numerous machines, weapons, tools and products that are a part of Alabama’s industrial heritage.
I am asking that you please support the passing of the SB-81, the bill that has slight revisions to the previously passed law concerning diving and recovery of artifacts. These revisions definitely make the law less confusing for law enforcement. This revision, in no way affects the protection of sunken ships or inundated Indian towns or burial sites. They still remain fully protected. Your support is requested.
I am writing in support of bill SB-81. I have been a certified diver for 12 years. I personally do not do this kind of diving, but I would like my right to do this activity preserved! The individuals that dive for isolated finds in this state put a great deal of time and money into this activity with no monetary gain in return. They spend countless hours preserving and researching their finds for future generations to see, rather than allowing them to rot in the bottom of a river. They are not diving on shipwrecks or Native American sites, but isolated locations. Special interest groups, such as the profession archaeologists employed by this state, oppose this bill solely for monetary gain. I urge you not to let the greed of these individuals deny the people of Alabama their constitutional rights. It would be a travesty to refuse your constituents their hobby based on the narrow-minded opinions of this select group of people!

Alabama has more navigable waterways than any other state and the people of this state should be allowed to enjoy them! The state of South Carolina allows this type of diving. All that the archaeologists of that state ask is that finds of interest be reported to the state not to be taken but documented for further education. Many people travel to that state to dive in there rivers for this reason. The Alabama State Board of Tourism already supports this type of diving in the state for its potential economic gains. If this bill is passed then not only we people travel here to dive on our beautiful gulf coast but they can take advantage of our rivers as well, which will provide further economic stimulus to the state!

I urge you to support SB-81!!
Mary Griffin
As the discussion over the rights of SCUBA and other diving rights in Alabama continues in Montgomery, I would like for each of you to be aware of my interest in the issue and my opposition to the continued misuse of state time and equipment by the Alabama Historical Commission to fight the legislative process. Please read the article from the Alabama News Reporter that further explains this.

As each of you may know, my profession as a marine biologist and conservation biologist requires diving by my colleagues and me on many of our state’s rivers and streams. Indeed, I have been diving in the state of Alabama for over 30 years. The existing statute “protecting” cultural resources from rogue divers has long been in need of clarification. Law enforcement has often broadly interpreted the statute to mean we simply cannot dive in areas where cultural resources are known to be resulting in arrests and fines. Furthermore, Alabama’s “citizen divers” are among the largest exploring force in the state for determining the location and extent of our state’s underwater cultural as well as biological resources. Indeed, without the input from such diver’s, the state would be unaware of many artifacts that exist. This is all particularly troubling for us here in the Tennessee Valley that use the Tennessee River as a diving resource since so many Native American cultural resources exist in and along the river. We could be subject to the whims of law enforcement for diving virtually anywhere in the vicinity of Seven-Mile Island!

I ask you both to please support SB 81 and HB 54. Thank you for your time and consideration in this important matter. 

Terry D. Richardson, Ph.D.
I am asking that you please support the passing of the SB-81, the bill that has slight revisions to the previously passed law concerning the Diving and Recovery of Single Artifacts from the bottoms of Alabama Waterways. These slight revisions definitely make the previously passed law less confusing for the law enforcement as to the original intent of the law. This revision, in no way affects the protection of sunken ships or inundated Indian towns or burial sites. They still remain fully protected.

I am an author of various artifact books that are heavily used as reference books by the AHC, the Archaeologists and the hobbyist or amateur metal detectorist. I do have a reasonable knowledge of what some less than scrupulous professional archaeologists and the AHC are trying to pull over your eyes in the guise of the professional archaeologist and this has been going on for decades in most of our great states. I am also on the staff of 2 different bimonthly professional publications. When Steve Phillips was originally asking for your help in the passing of the law, I came to your great state and did testify in front of your honorable selves.

Thanks for that opportunity,
Charles S. Harris
I am sending you this e-mail to ask for your support for a bill that I hope you will soon see in the House. SB81 will soon be introduced in the Senate.  It guarantees my right to dive in the waters of this state and collect isolated artifacts that are not associated with any cultural resource.  Diving for artifacts scattered across our many miles of river beds is a very enjoyable past time of mine.  I have found many interesting bottles, items from the Civil War, old ink wells, telephone insulators, old iron anchors, old locks and such that I love to collect and preserve.

I think I should be allowed to find and keep such items without harassment from professional archaeologists.  They are not collecting it. Besides, most of the stuff that I consider great treasure, like an old cracked Coke bottle, they are not even interested in.

Please support my rights to enjoy my hobby.

Thank you,
C. Kevin McCauley
I am a detectorist and have been one for 30+ years. I have been a law enforcement officer for 35 years. The pictures you see is junk that was collected from detecting in 2009, 2010, and 2011. We do not steal artifacts, we do not rob raves. This hobby is a good hobby for the whole family so they can learn history. The artifacts that I dig up are put in display cases and shown to the public. I show my finds to history classes, civic organizations, Historical Associations, etc. The archaeologists put a stop to detecting in Wisconsin on all state lands, parks, and waterways. We are working on getting our rights back. It is too bad that we as hobby detectorist dig up history for free and show it to the public and even donate to museums but archaeologists have to get paid. A lot of items that are in museums across the country were found by detectorist, not archaeologists. I am asking your support in SB-81 (HB-54). Don't allow a small group of archaeologists dictate historical finds by detectorists. We don't just help unearthing history but help with the cleaning of the environment. Another thing to look at is, how many vacationers come to your wonderful state and spend money who detect. How many will go to other states where they can do this hobby. Feel free to call me if you have any questions.

Thank You for your time in this matter
Kenny Briggs - Wisconsin
We have spoken in the past on various issues, and I appreciate your hard work and leadership here in Alabaster and Shelby County. I also appreciate you sponsoring SB-81, and am writing today to voice my SUPPORT.

I have been a diver for almost 25 years and diving in the rivers of this state WAS a hobby of mine. I have dived in many of our rivers, but no longer feel comfortable doing so due to unwarranted law enforcement harassment. The law as it is written now is subject to misinterpretation, and as such is bad law. Bill 81 does NOT take away any current mandates, and only clarifies existing law and makes it easy for law enforcement and divers to understand.

I enjoy collecting artifacts, some of which I sometimes find when diving. My position is that these things are the bottom of rivers, and if left there no one will ever know about them as they deteriorate and disappear. If we divers can bring them up and preserve them, write the reference books and not be afraid to share the knowledge with others, then I think good is accomplished. The adversarial relationship that Alabama divers have with the Historical Commission is a detriment to all. As an Auburn University history major, I feel that it's a profound waste that the two sides cannot somehow work together to share our mutual love and knowledge of Alabama history.

I strongly feel that a citizen of this state should have the right to collect isolated finds NOT ASSOCIATED with a designated underwater cultural resource site.

Thank you for your time, and your support.

Barry Hocutt
We want to voice our opinion of SB-81 and show our support to improve the language in the law allowing our rights to our waterways and lands of Alabama.  We are both scuba divers and as residents of Cullman County living on beautiful Smith Lake, we would like to know we have the right to dive in this lake and recover anything we find and not be arrested for doing so. Beyond the usual sunglasses, keys or wallets recovered while diving, who knows, we might find something of historical value. I just can’t believe we could be arrested for that!

I surely can see nothing but improvement with the few changes that SB-81 will make to our laws for Public Land and Water. Please represent those of us in your district and support this bill.
Steve and Becky Miller

I am writing to ask that you support SB-81.  It appears this bill again may not be given a chance due to pressure from the Alabama Historical Commission and their “industry of archeology”.   An examination of this issue and it’s history proves this is NOT about preserving history, but is rather a clear example of a state agency making a self serving regulatory grab that was NOT intended by the legislation. (As per the original bill’s sponsors and many who remember voting for it).

The Alabama Historical Commission continues using ambiguity in the wording of an existing law to prevent anyone not in their preferred group from having access to “their” turf.  Law enforcement officials are being misled and used as a harassment tool to enforce the preferred misinterpretation of the law.   In addition to the individuals whose rights are being stolen, this misuse of law enforcement resources is also stealing from the taxpayers and citizens as well.

The Historic Commission is not more able to find, restore, catalog and preserve small artifacts than are individual history enthusiasts and divers who have a love and passion for what they do.  This is evidenced by the proportion of artifacts in our museums that were donated by individual collectors and enthusiasts.  These individuals have been finding, recovering, saving, preserving, documenting, and sharing small relics for years that were hidden in waters throughout our state that the state historic commission would rather allow to rot and disappear beneath our state's waters unless they are involved.

Prior problems and abuses by the Alabama Historical Commission in numerous unrelated issues are well known and documented.  But they are well organized, and have any number of chosen “experts” who are paid for their time (usually by the taxpayers) while pushing their personal agenda, while individual citizens have to take time off to be involved, assuming they even know when to go.  This severely stacks the deck of what you and other legislators are exposed to.  I am asking you, as a responsible legislator, to look past the lobbying efforts of the Historical Commission and their chosen academia and do what is right for the citizens of Alabama.  Please support Bill SB-81.  If you want any supporting documentation or information on any of this I will be happy to supply it.

Robert Cox