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Introduced by Representatives Larocque of Barnet, Allard of St. Albans Town, Branagan of Georgia, Donaghy of Poultney, Fallar of Tinmouth, Fitzgerald of St. Albans City, Johnson of Canaan, Larrabee of Danville, Otterman of Topsham and Rodgers of Glover

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Historic preservation; unmarked burial sites; plan for treatment

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to authorize the commissioner of housing and community affairs to approve plans for appropriate and respectful treatment of unmarked burial sites; to stipulate that an unmarked burial site  may not be disturbed unless operating under a treatment plan approved by the commissioner; and to recodify the section of statute that establishes an unmarked burial sites special fund to a new subchapter on unmarked burial sites.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  18 V.S.A. chapter 121, subchapter 7 is added to read:

Subchapter 7.  Unmarked Burial Sites

§ 5601.  Definitions

In this subchapter:

(1)  “Treatment plan” means a plan to provide appropriate and respectful treatment of a burial site and may include:

(A)  methods for determining the presence of an unmarked burial site which may include archaeological surveys and assessments and other nonintrusive techniques;

(B)  methods for handling development and excavation on property on which it is known that there is or is likely to be one or more burial sites;

(C)  options for owners of property on which human remains in burial sites are discovered or determined to be located;

(D)  procedures for protecting, preserving, or moving the burial site and human remains; and

(E)  procedures for resolving disputes among stakeholders.

(2)  “Unmarked burial site” means any interment of human remains, evidence of human remains, evidence of cremation, including the presence of red ochre, funerary objects, or a documented concentration of burial sites; except that unmarked burial site does not include a cemetery, mausoleum, or columbarium managed or maintained by a municipality, church, other organization, or a private individual. 


(a)  A person who intentionally excavates, disinters, or removes human remains or funerary objects from an unmarked burial site or aids in such activities shall be subject to the penalties of 13 V.S.A. § 3761 unless the person is operating under a treatment plan approved by the commissioner of housing and community affairs.  This subsection does not apply to a medical examiner or state’s attorney acting under section 5205 of this title.

(b)  If following any investigation under section 5205 of this title, a medical examiner determines that the burial site does not fall under the purview of the medical examiner’s office, he or she shall notify the state archaeologist.


(a)  The unmarked burial sites special fund is established in the state treasury for the purpose of protecting, preserving, moving or reinterring human remains discovered in unmarked burial sites.

(b)  The fund shall comprise any monies appropriated to the fund by the general assembly or received from any other source, private or public.  Interest earned on the fund and any balance remaining in the fund at the end of a fiscal year shall be retained in the fund.  This fund shall be maintained by the state treasurer, and shall be managed in accordance with subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32.

(c)  The commissioner of housing and community affairs may authorize disbursements from the fund for use in any municipality in which human remains are discovered in unmarked burial sites provided that the commissioner has approved a treatment plan for the site.

(d)  If unmarked burial sites and human remains are removed, consistent with the process set forth in this section and any permit required by this chapter, there shall be no criminal liability under 13 V.S.A. § 3761.

(e)  The funds shall be used for the following purposes relating to unmarked burial sites:

(1)  To implement a treatment plan approved by the commissioner of housing and community affairs.

(2)  To monitor excavations.

(3)  To perform archaeological assessments and archaeological site or field investigations, including radar scanning and any other nonintrusive technology or technique designed to determine the presence of human remains.

(4)  To provide mediation and other appropriate dispute resolution services.

(5)  To acquire property or development rights, provided the commissioner of housing and community affairs determines that disbursements for this purpose will not unduly burden the fund, and further provided the commissioner shall expend funds for this purpose only with the concurrence of the secretary of commerce and community development and after consultation with the legislative bodies of any affected municipality or municipalities.

(6)  Any other appropriate purpose determined by the commissioner to be consistent with the purposes of this fund.

(f)  The commissioner may adopt rules to carry out the intent and purpose of this section.

Sec. 2.  REPEAL

18 V.S.A. § 5212b, relating to a burial sites special fund, is repealed.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont