Located in north central New Mexico, Bandelier National Monument encompasses an array of archeological, historic, and natural features. Its main attraction, Frijoles Canyon, contains ruins that include the community house called Tyuonyi and Ceremonial Cave. The canyon is a popular destination among American travelers, but it is not the only significant feature contained in the monument. In 1986, the monument included a designated wilderness area of 23,267 acres among its 32,737.2-acre total area.
At the turn of the century, the area that became Bandelier National Monument was of interest to preservationist constituencies. The region became the focus of attempts to establish a national park in New Mexico. Archaeologists saw the value of the region, as did local commercial interests, but the different groups were not able to reconcile the points of contention between them. Because the El Rito de los Frijoles was on its lands, the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) advocated the establishment of Bandelier National Monument as a way to circumvent efforts to establish a national park. Its maneuver succeeded, and the USFS administered Bandelier from 1916 to 1932.
Throughout the 1920s, however, the National Park Service lobbied for a national park in the region. Its primary effort failed as a result of resistance offered by Frank Pinkley, the superintendent of the southwestern national monuments group of the agency. He opposed the archeological national park on the grounds that the area did not fit the standards the Park Service established earlier in the 1920s and that the concept of an archeological national park violated the Antiquities Act of 1906. Pinkley's opposition led the agency to rethink its position. In 1932, the Park Service acquired Bandelier National Monument.
Since the 1930s, there have been a number of efforts to establish a national park in the region. The 100,000-acre Baca Location # 1, the Valle Grande, north and west of Frijoles Canyon, became critical to the conception of a park as the agency emphasized the geological attributes of the region instead of its archeology. In the early 1960s, the commitment of the agency to the concept of a park area with both natural and cultural values became evident when it transferred archeological ruins to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in exchange for the pristine Upper Frijoles Canyon area. Yet national park efforts failed to succeed, and in 1986, the Bandelier National Monument comprised the extent of agency holdings in the region.
Through the mid-1980s, development at Bandelier followed a "boom-bust" cycle. After the Park Service took over the monument, it embarked upon a program to create administrative and visitor facilities in Frijoles Canyon. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp facilitated the development of the park, and between 1933 and 1940, its workers built the entire Frijoles Canyon headquarters area. Between 1940 and the early 1960s, park administrators retrenched in the face of changing patterns of visitor use. With the implementation of the Mission 66 program for Bandelier in 1963, the agency again initiated development programs, culminating in a master plan that laid the basis for increased use of the back country. The public adversely responded to the proposal, advocating the establishment of a designated wilderness area as an alternative. In the end, the agency went along with its constituency. Although the master plan continued to advocate development at the southern tip of the monument, a designated wilderness area was established at the site in 1976.
Until the 1970s, issues of resource management at Bandelier focused on its prehistoric assets. But the pressure of increased visitation and the establishment of the wilderness area caused the staff at the park to manage its resources as part of an integrated whole. A resource management unit, with responsibility for all the resources of the monument, was the result.
The 1980s saw a number of threats to the integrity of the park. The Department of Energy, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Public Service Company of New Mexico were all among the groups whose proposals threatened the monument. Although by 1987, the Park Service had successfully resisted many threats, problems on the Pajarito Plateau seemed likely to escalate. Limited by its location and the minute size of its primary feature, Bandelier served as a microcosm of the external threats facing the park system. The survival of its resources will require continued vigilance on the part of the agency.
Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006