Cultural Resources Management (CRM) is a branch of American archaeology concerned with the identification, maintenance, and preservation of significant cultural sites. It has its roots in the salvage archeology undertaken throughout North America before and after World War II, often as a response to the construction of highways, reservoirs, and similar large public works projects. These projects usually involved the identification and excavation of sites before they could be destroyed. In the early days of salvage archaeoloy, it was nearly unheard-of for a project to be delayed because of the presence of even the most fascinating cultural sites, so it behooved the salvage archaeologists to work as fast as possible. Although many sites were lost to these projects, the data from many others was saved for posterity due to the efforts of the salvage archaeologists.
In more recent decades, legislation has been passed that emphasizes the identification and protection of cultural sites, especially those on public lands. The administration of President Richard Nixon was most instrumental in passing and developing this legislation, although it has been extended and elaborated upon since. Basically, these laws make it a crime to develop any federal lands without conducting a cultural resources survey in order to identify and assess any cultural sites that may be impacted. In extreme cases, in which significant sites are found that play a vital role in our understanding of the prehistoric or historic milieu of a region, the proposed project must be redesigned or abandoned. These strictures can extend to private development efforts as well, if those efforts involve public waterways or any federal funds at all.
While archaeological sites remain the primary focus for most CRM archaologists, other cultural sites -- such as buildings, bridges, Native American ceremonial sites, and ethnohistorical projects -- also fall within their purview. Most CRM projects are undertaken by private companies under contract to a private entity or government agency. Because of this, as well as CRM's emphasis on site identification and preservation rather than intensive study, the work of CRM archaeologists is often not not taken seriously by academic archaeologists.
Many archeologists find the acheological opportunities clearing house, Shovelbums, founded in the late 1990s by R. Joe Brandon a useful resource for connecting with other archeologists and employment opportunities in their field.