(KCPW News) Governor Gary Herbert insists that the firing of three state archaeologists earlier this week was due to budget cuts, and not any sort of political pressure related to their efforts to protect archaeological sites from development.
“The fact that these people were let go has nothing to do with anything they have ever done, any academia research or work they were involved with, it only has to with the direction that we got from the legislature and the budget cutting process,” Herbert said.
Former Assistant State Archaeologist Ronald Rood previously suggested to the Salt Lake Tribune that the layoffs were politically motivated, but Herbert says he received input from those archaeologists, and turned to them for guidance when the Utah Transit Authority’s plans to develop on an American Indian village near Point of the Mountain intensified.
“We’ve had a reduction in force of over 1,000 people in the last year and these happen to be three others that are going to be reduced because of the lack of budgetary abilities,” Herbert said. “We are trying in Utah to be very fiscally prudent but we clearly still have archaeologists on board and we are reducing from three to one so it’s not like we are eliminating that entirely.”
Herbert later signed a conservation easement protecting the site. The governor spoke at his monthly news conference on KUED.
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