The surviving traces of the historic and prehistoric past are non-renewable resources. They are easily degraded or destroyed by highway projects unless an appropriate effort is made to identify, evaluate, and protect them. Documenting the often-ephemeral traces of our collective history adds to the understanding and appreciation of California's past by future generations.
The public is concerned about how Caltrans projects affect cultural resources. Responsible consideration of cultural values in the course of project planning and implementation helps avoid conflict and build support for Caltrans transportation objectives. This concern is manifested by a suite of laws and regulations that relate to archaeological, historical and social-cultural resources and issues.
Caltrans complies with federal laws for transportation projects with federal funding. This process is commonly known as "Section 106" of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Significant non-archaeological resources are also subject to Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Caltrans must also comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) of 1970 and uses the California Historical Resource Status Codes for this purpose.
The concerns of Native Americans are also addressed by a variety of specialized federal and state laws and regulations. See the Native American Cultural Studies for more information.
Caltrans has established policies and guidance for compliance with federal and state cultural resources laws and regulations. They are contained in the Caltrans Standard Environmental Reference (SER), Volume 2 - Cultural Resources.