Administrative History
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In the late 1970s, the NPS planned to broaden the interpretive message of the monument by acquiring new areas. The 1977 master plan, created in response to the Cochiti Dam, was the culmination of these efforts. Park Service plans called for the acquisition of the Cañada de Cochiti Grant, the location of a stronghold from the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680 and numerous Spanish and Indian communities that had survived into the twentieth century. The new plan also included construction of a visitor center at the south end of the monument.

Again the agency planned to develop new attractions to relieve the burden upon Frijoles Canyon, this time by acquiring land that extended the scope of its interpretation into the historic period. The Park Service planned guided tours to Kotyiti, the fortified rebellion-era pueblo, and Cañada Village, within the boundaries of the grant. Trails from the visitor center to two sites in the southern section of Bandelier, the Painted Cave and San Miguel Pueblo, were also planned. The increased ease of access required more intensive management on the part of the Park Service.

The southern tip of the monument offered a new realm of possibilities for the members of the interpretive staff. They finally had visible evidence to dispel the myth that abandoned pueblos were evidence of a lost civilization. Kotyiti and Cañada Village showed that pueblo culture survived the arrival of the Spanish and adopted elements of the incoming Spanish tradition. The new sites showed pueblo life in the historic period and validated the argument that the members of the other northern pueblos—particularly the Cochiti, Santa Clara, and San Ildefonso groups—were the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Pajarito Plateau.

A major environmental disaster disrupted Park Service plans on the Pajarito Plateau. During the summer of 1977, a vast fire of human origin destroyed much of the forest in the northwestern portion of the monument, adjacent national forest lands, and portions of Department of Energy land. The La Mesa fire began in the late afternoon of June 16, 1977. It raged for nearly a week, burning more than 15,000 acres of the plateau.

bulldozers creating fire line
The La Mesa fire in 1977 also inspired innovations in resource management. Fire-fighting operations threatened archeological resources in the burn area. Archeologists and fire-fighters worked in concert to fight the fire without damaging subsurface remains. In this photo, archeologists precede bulldozers along the fire lines to indentify archeological resources.

As a result of quick thinking by regional office personnel and park staff, the cultural resources of the burning area were scrutinized by archeologists who preceded the fire-fighting bulldozers. This plan came about almost serendipitously. On his way to visit an archeologist friend at the Park Service regional office on Old Santa Fé Trail in Santa Fé, Dr. Milford R. Fletcher, the regional scientist of the Southwest Region, looked up and saw smoke on the Pajarito Plateau. He told Cal Cummings, the deputy chief of the Division of Cultural Resources in the region, that because Bandelier was an archeological park, the construction of fire lines required archeologists. Archeologists could locate buried archeological sites and direct the bulldozers away from the ruins. Cummings, Superintendent Hunter, and the Forest Service agreed; Cummings found and scheduled volunteers, and Fletcher provided on-site supervision. In the end, nearly forty archeologists worked in front of the bulldozers during the La Mesa fire. [20]

The fire cleared the way for cultural resource management on the plateau to expand into new realms. Prior to 1977, the Park Service, Forest Service, and LASL operated their cultural resource programs independently. The agencies had different management objectives, and often their perspectives seemed antithetical. The fire promoted new cooperation and awareness of the value of the ruins. There were, however, tense moments. In one case, Fletcher turned off a Forest Service bulldozer, telling its driver: "We don't care if the trees burn. They'll grow back. Ruins won't." But on the whole, each organization respected the primacy of the ruins. Veterans of the fire remembered the shared objectives as superseding the occasional conflicts. [21]

The concern with preservation set new precedents for Federal handling of fires in archeological areas. Superintendent John D. Hunter received one of the highest awards offered by the Department of the Interior, the Meritorious Service Award, for service that included his handling of the La Mesa situation. For other Federal agencies, the response of the Park Service provided a "consciousness-raising" experience. Fletcher and Park Service archeologists spoke to other agencies about the La Mesa fire and the ramifications of their response. Although the fire burnt surface ruins, it made a survey of the archeological resources of the park much easier. The Park Service also acquired a wealth of new information about patterns of plant succession after fires, and in the early 1980s began to organize it. [22]

After the fire, the agency shifted its focus to other cultural resource needs at the monument. Vandalism remained a problem. Despite the best efforts of the Park Service, graffiti regularly marred the cavates in Frijoles Canyon. To limit its affect on visitors, park staff burnt fires in the caves to cover the scrawl of insensitive vandals with a new layer of char. But this type of solution could only address the effects of callous behavior, not its causes.

"Pot-hunting" also remained endemic. The unstaffed Tsankawi Mesa was a particularly tempting target for thieves of prehistoric artifacts. Comparatively few people visited the mesa, and the park had no uniformed ranger stationed there. Except for occasional patrols, signs and guidebooks were the only evidence of the presence of the Park Service. The wilderness area in the main section also revealed scattered evidence of digging. As in the 1910s and 1920s, when many southwestern archeological areas were in a similar state, the unpatrolled parts of the monument remained vulnerable to both pilfering visitors and professional depredators. [23]

The CCC buildings constructed during the 1930s also attracted the attention of cultural resource managers. The structures became a historic resource. Park rangers had always received questions about the buildings, and informally, the story of the CCC and Mrs. Frey's Frijoles Canyon Lodge became part of the interpretive story at the monument. The buildings were nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, and two Park Service employees, Laura Soulliere Harrison, an architectural historian, and Randy Copeland, an historical architect, prepared an historic district nomination for the buildings in Frijoles Canyon. On May 28, 1987, the Secretary of the Interior designated the CCC complex as National Historic Landmarks, the highest level of significance authorized outside of congressional mandate. Yet the structures required cyclic maintenance. [24]

During the 1980s, the Park Service undertook a major rehabilitation program for the structures. The program began in 1979, when Robert Butcher, the Chief of the Division of Maintenance at the monument, began a fund drive to rehabilitate the Visitor Center. Russell Butcher of the National Parks and Conservation Association, no relation to Robert Butcher, spearheaded the fund raising campaign to which corporations and private citizens contributed. During a three-year period, the program raised nearly $60,000, approximately one-tenth of the entire maintenance cost. The money went toward an intensive program of repatching, repointing, and replastering the structures. Many vigas, the wood roof beams that protruded from the sides of the buildings, and canales, the open rooftop drains, had rotted, and these were replaced. During 1985-86, crews worked on many of the buildings.

Maintenance of the historic structures seemed a constant struggle. In the mid 1980s, park staff noticed dampness in the walls of many of the buildings. The staff found that runoff from the flat roofs of the buildings caused the problem. After the roofs and parapets had been foamed in 1981, some water ran down the outside of the walls, causing damage. In 1987, the park experimented with angling the parapets on the roof differently so as to channel the water from these to the inner roof. [25]

The desire for more comprehensive interpretation led to expanded archeological research in the 1980s. Most of the excavating done at Bandelier dated from the first two decades of the twentieth century, and since that time, southwestern archeology had matured considerably. Yet no one knew the range of archeological resources contained in the monument. Without that information, a coherent plan of administration was impossible. In the 1940s, superintendents began to clamor for a site survey. Until the 1970s, they had little opportunity to undertake such an extensive project, but late in the decade, developments within the Southwest Region set the stage for a site survey at Bandelier.

During the 1970s, the agency developed the Chaco Center to expand archeological horizons at Chaco Canyon. The excavations there broadened archeological knowledge and led to the enlargement of the Chaco Canyon National Monument and its reclassification as a national historical park. After the completion of the Chaco project, and at the request of Superintendent J. D. Hunter and staff, the archeologists turned their attention to a site survey of Bandelier National Monument. During the summer of 1985, they began fieldwork at the monument.

Between 1932 and the 1980s, the range of cultural resource responsibilities at Bandelier changed dramatically. In the 1930s, the NPS thought only of its obligation to preserve and protect the ruins. But in the subsequent fifty years, the methods of the agency became more sophisticated, new technology and ideas were implemented, and a wider range of cultural resources became important at Bandelier. By the 1980s, the management of cultural resources at the monument included historic and prehistoric facets.

Yet cultural resources were not the only important feature of the monument. The establishment of the Bandelier wilderness and the La Mesa fire helped show that Bandelier had two futures, one archeological and one natural. The new planning practices of the agency offered visible evidence of the interrelatedness of these two facets of management. By the middle of the 1970s, the practices of the Park Service revealed an increasing emphasis upon the natural resources at the Bandelier National Monument.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006