Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Four Corners Heritage Council: A Complex Collaboration to Meet Regional Goals  

12-09-2015 17:35

The mission of the Four Corners Heritage Council is to promote partnerships in heritage resource tourism, education, interpretation, and stewardship.

The Four Corners Heritage Council was established in 1992 by signing a cooperative agreement between the four governors of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. The cooperative agreement was the result of a Four Corners governors conference held at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Delores, Colo., in June 1990. More than 100 public and private sector representatives from the Four Corners region joined in the conference to create a vision for the management, protection, and promotion of the world-class cultural resources and heritage of the region. Participants in the six conference working groups addressed the specific topics of economic development, management, interpretation, public involvement, involvement, partnership strategies, and law enforcement.

The cooperative agreement contained private property rights protection and laid out the goals of the Four Corners Heritage Council:

1. To improve cultural resource management, conservation, and protection.

2. To increase public access to and enjoyment of the region’s heritage resources.

3. To increase public involvement and education in heritage resources and management.

4. To expand comprehensive research into the heritage resources of the region.

5. To facilitate the establishment of a site recognition system for heritage resources.

6. To provide increased economic development opportunities.

7. To foster partnerships among public agencies, private landowners, and Indian tribes.

8. To facilitate the establishment of the “Trails of the Ancients” as a touring route that links prehistoric and historic cultural sites and scenic attractions in the Four Corners area. The route is intended to connect to the already established Masau Trail in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as other possible byways.

A 12-member council was established with three representatives from each of the four states. Two representatives were required to reside in the area, with one member at large. One member from each state must represent a Native American component. Over time, this council of 12 individual members has changed into what is now known as the council of ten. The council of ten represents the four states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah; the tribes, Hopi, Navajo, and Ute Mountain; and federal agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service.

Further refinement of the eight items in the cooperative agreement has led to tightening and grouping of activities. The program responsibilities of the Four Corners Heritage Council are now heritage education, heritage stewardship, heritage tourism, and heritage trails. Further partners have been invited to participate, including Area Resource Development Councils, Consortium of Heritage Stewardship, Four Corners Tourism Council, and Southwest Heritage Education Group.

The Four Corners Heritage Council has also been able to identify a theme for their area: “There are no boundaries.” Guiding Principles include cultural appropriateness, environmental sensitivity, and economic sustainability.

The council meets six to seven times per year. Due to the complexities of the area boundaries and partnerships, efforts have not necessarily come quickly to fruition, but have continually moved toward achieving their key goals.

Projects of the Four Corners Heritage Council

Projects that have been undertaken and completed include:

1. Adopt a Site program.

2. Site Stewardship conference held in Blanding, Utah, in 2001. Topics included volunteer recruitment and management, start-up and funding, media relations and public education, and program sustainability.

3. Trail of Many Tracks, a heritage auto touring route designed to be linked with heritage tourism efforts for the Four Corners region (

4.Trail of the Ancients, a completely marked scenic byway that links a number of archeological sites as well as significant cultural and historic sites in the Four Corners region (

5. Land of Silent Voices video.

Projects that are nearly completed include the Four Corners Visitor/Interpretive Center and the Monument Valley Welcome Center.

The Four Corners Heritage Council has also participated in the completion of the Utah Heritage Tourism Toolkit. The Council is currently working on an archeological site stabilization training program (Archaeological Academy) in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Forest Service; National Park Service; Utah Division of State History, Antiquities Section; College of Eastern Utah; and Utah State University at the College of Eastern Utah, Blanding Campus.

A Utah State Heritage Area grant program further assisted the Four Corners Heritage Council efforts. The purpose of the grant program is to provide a source of revenue to developing heritage areas and corridors and assist them with moving toward full state and potentially federal designation. The Council has received ongoing funding from the four states and tribal entities, as well as number of grants from other organizations.

The Four Corners Heritage Council is now seeking federal heritage trail designation and is working on a number of other projects to enhance the experience, education, and visitation of those interested in the area.

Publication Date: Summer 2003


Author(s):Wilson Martin