Administrative History
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The passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964 was a major victory for preservation advocates, and their zealous fervor persisted for years to come. In essence, the advocates of the concept of wilderness had a new option. The Bandelier backcountry gave them another place where they could implement it. The draft of the Bandelier master plan included provisions for a floating marina on the new lake, as well a means to connect the separate visitor facilities in Frijoles Canyon with those proposed for the south end of the monument. The pro-wilderness groups believed that the NPS sought an auto road between the two areas, an idea antithetical to their conception of the management of the backcountry. From their point of view, the issue was very clear: a development at the southern end of Bandelier would encroach upon any undesignated wild land in the area. A designated wilderness was necessary to protect the pristine character of the backcountry. Wilderness advocates played to the current biases of their supporters by presenting themselves as defenders of the wild. They presented the Park Service as a short-sighted bureaucracy, concerned more with its position than its mandate.

Park Service officials saw the development of the southern end of the monument as a trade-off. It allowed them to protect the wild areas of the monument by offering the backcountry the protection afforded by a permanent Park Service presence. The development at the south end would also allow the agency to monitor the inevitable increase in visitation that the lake would bring. The Park Service saw other drawbacks to a wilderness designation. The Wilderness Act of 1964 limiting the ways in which Government agencies could administer wilderness areas. At Bandelier, this meant that backcountry excavations would have to be carried out without the benefit of mechanized equipment, making archeological research more difficult. The mandate for Bandelier made the monument an archeological area, not a natural one. Thus, the Park Service believed that to uphold its mandate, it had to oppose the wilderness.

The prospect of a wilderness at Bandelier did not appeal to many within the Park Service. The idea was new, and its ramifications remained unclear. There had not yet been a wilderness established in a designated archeological area. From the management perspective, the potential for conflict between different kinds of management objectives seemed too great. The administrative issues concerning archeological excavation and a designated wilderness seemed impossible to reconcile.

The no-wilderness recommendation of the agency, however, was not offered to allow the backcountry to be overrun with the curious from Cochiti Lake. The protection of resources in the backcountry was the agency's primary goal. There were many ways to uphold that obligation. The Park Service wanted to keep management options open, but the specific restrictions governing designated wilderness limited the options of the agency. According to Linwood E. Jackson, the superintendent at that time, the NPS had every intention of maintaining the roadless status of the backcountry. To do so without designating it as a wilderness made management of the area much easier.

Battle lines were clearly drawn. The wilderness constituency formed a private organization, the New Mexico Wilderness Study Committee (NMWSC), to evaluate wilderness proposals within the state. The Park Service previously recommended that no wilderness be established in the Chaco Canyon. The Wilderness Study Committee went along with the agency. Its members were not as supportive at Bandelier. Instead of concurring with the Park Service, the NMWSC proposed the establishment of a 22,133-acre wilderness that included the entire monument except for the area north of Frijoles Canyon.

The American environmental movement earned its spurs with the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. At Bandelier, it sought to apply a portion of its new power. Wilderness groups believed that the Park Service was compromising its principles in an effort to develop its constituency of sedentary tourists. Although they recognized the importance of the recreational visitor to the Park System, wilderness advocates could not condone developments designed to promote extensive use in previously pristine areas. In an era when Americans were suspicious of the motives of even the most benign of Government agencies, wilderness advocates sought safeguards to preserve the wild character of the Bandelier backcountry. From their point of view, the Park Service was not fulfilling the obligations of its mandate.

The issue came to a head on December 18, 1971, in a public hearing at the Los Alamos Inn in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Sixty-one people attended the meeting and forty spoke. Another 174 letters were placed in the record. Every one of the private citizens who spoke opposed the recommendation of the agency, as did all who wrote letters. "Why invite another Yosemite?" wrote Steve Schum, the President of the University of New Mexico Mountaineering Club. "Anthropologists can research and develop ruins without using mechanized equipment." Echoing the sentiment of many in the wilderness coalition, Elizabeth A. Jackson of Guilford, Connecticut, wrote that wilderness was "the only way to preserve [Bandelier's] pristine state." [31]

With the New Mexico Wilderness Study Committee leading the charge, private organizations overwhelmingly opposed the Park Service. Norman Bullard of the NMWSC expressed the view of the majority of the groups. He favored the wilderness designation because it would protect the backcountry from "changing administrative perceptions." [32] Many others stressed the compatibility of wilderness and archeological management. Of the forty speakers in Los Alamos, fourteen supported the Wilderness Study Committee and its 22,133-acre proposal, while an additional twenty-five supported the general idea of a designated wilderness in the Bandelier backcountry.

The National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA), provided the sole support for the agency. The authors of the NPCA report wondered if any portion of the monument were suited for wilderness status. They used the same rationale that the agency did, focusing on the archeological mandate at Bandelier and its incompatibility with the concept of a wilderness.

NPCA support of the NPS position, however, was not unequivocal. The organization stated that the existing values at the monument had to be protected before new ones could be developed. It opposed certain aspects of the new master plan, including the proposal for a floating marina and the possibility of connecting Cañada de Cochiti to Frijoles Canyon by road. The NPCA believed that the area was unsuited for wilderness, but conversely, did not want to see major development in the backcountry. Its support for the agency was predicated upon a less extensive development plan.

The full range of issues was more complex than most of the respondents realized. Many of the individual respondents advocated adding the Cañada de Cochiti grant to the proposed wilderness. The agency wanted to acquire it as a buffer for the backcountry. Unaware that the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964 limited wilderness areas to undeveloped land, some supporters even suggested that the entire monument, including the developed portions of Frijoles Canyon, be declared a wilderness.

The wilderness constituency, however, had a valid point. A designated wilderness guaranteed a pristine backcountry in the future. Its advocates sought to shape agency policy without clearly understanding the reasons the agency opposed the designation. Without agency affiliation and with a supportive public audience, they were free to challenge the plans of the Park Service without having to participate in subsequent daily administration.

Two viable management alternatives, easily construed as mutually exclusive, arrived at the same time and place. The newness of the wilderness designation and its appeal to vocal and visible interest groups made it an attractive option. It received considerable backing when compared to a plan that on the surface appeared to be another accommodation of sedentary America. In response to the public pressure, Park Service officials reconsidered. In August, 1972, the agency recommended a wilderness area of 21,110-acres for Bandelier. To the cheers of the environmental community and many within the Park Service, the Bandelier wilderness area was established in 1976.

The wilderness proposal and the proposed master plan for the monument did not turn out to be antithetical. Nor did the reconsideration alter the Bandelier master plan. "The purpose for which the monument was established . . ." read the wilderness recommendation, "remains paramount." [33] The Park Service was committed to the archeological resources of the monument. It also pursued the acquisition of the Cañada de Cochiti grant, as well as a development in the southern quarter of the monument.

The Park Service was determined to manage the proposed wilderness in conjunction with its proposed development, dispelling notions of the incompatibility of the two objectives. Despite changes in the attitude of the agency regarding the designation of a Bandelier wilderness, the Bandelier Master Plan of 1973 resembled the working draft of 1971. Only the most blatantly threatening features, the floating marina and the proposed "connection" between Frijoles Canyon and the Cañada de Cochiti grant, were excised from the plan. It seemed that a compromise had been reached.

Ironically, by the mid-1980s, much of the anticipatory strategy for the southern end of the monument had yet to be implemented. Little of the expected development in the surrounding area occurred. Cochiti Lake did not immediately spawn a flourishing city on its banks. In part because of the no-wake zoning, which the Park Service fought to keep, there was little pressure upon the monument from recreational users of the lake. There simply was no need for the facilities proposed in the master plan. Yet, the program remained a part of agency policy, ready to be implemented if ever needed.

In 1986, many of the programs that the master plan laid out for the Frijoles Canyon and Mesa areas remained in the planning stages. Despite the sanction of various restrictions in a transportation study by the Denver Service Center on the use of canyon, access to the Frijoles Canyon facilities continued to be uncontrolled. Private vehicle access to the canyon bottom continued unabated. In early 1987, no controlled transportation system existed to convey travelers to the Visitor Center. The picnic area that was to be phased out remained an important part of visitor accommodation in the canyon.

Yet the controlled-access policy that Frank Pinkley initiated has endured at the core of management philosophy for Bandelier. Park Service plans called for eventual limitations on access not only to ruins, but to the canyon itself. In keeping with the ideas Pinkley expressed during the 1930s, the Park Service constructed an ethic that will shape the manner that visitors experience the canyon and its ruins.

By 1986, the land acquisition facets of the master plan of 1977 were not yet implemented. Besides the acquisition of the Cañada de Cochiti grant, the plan envisioned reacquiring four sites from the old Otowi Section, the Big and Little Otowi ruins, the decorated cave kiva, and the game trap near Mortandad Canyon when the Department of Energy declared them excess. The Department of Energy, however, clung to its holdings in the Los Alamos vicinity. Despite the continued efforts of a small group of enthusiastic advocates, no opportunity presented itself to the agency.

The most recent master plan was the first of three at Bandelier to prepare for the future. The plan remained a broad mandate, allowing for many kinds of expansion under appropriate conditions. The plan of 1977 allowed park managers a wide range of options and the discretion to determine when to press for the implementation of the programs. An anticipatory program, it left the Park Service with a mandate to serve in case of most eventualities.

Since the Park Service assumed management of Bandelier in 1932, agency personnel worked to accommodate the demands of diverse constituencies. Yet, agency philosophy continued to be strongly influenced by the overwhelming need to protect the ruins and ensure the quality of visitor experience at the park. What seemed like unnecessary restriction to the casual observer became a piece of a larger mosaic, designed to preserve the legacy of the monument while enlightening visitors in the present.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006