NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN MESA AND CANON COUNTRY
During the 1970s, the Park Service broadened its view of its responsibilities at Bandelier. As a result of a number of factors, including changing attitudes within the agency, the establishment of the Bandelier wilderness on October 20, 1976, the burro issue, and the La Mesa fire, the management of natural resources took on new significance. After years of adhering strictly to the mandate in the organic legislation that established Bandelier, the Park Service developed an integrated program of resource management at the monument. In 1980, cultural and natural resource management were merged into one division headed by a natural resource manager.
Although an innovative concept, the idea of integrated management raised problems. Cultural resource managers often felt that budgetary allocations did not reflect their concerns. Many in the park and the regional office questioned the efficacy of a program that centered on anything but the archeological ruins that the monument was established to protect. Natural resource managers presented a different picture. In the words of Regional Scientist Dr. Milford R. Fletcher, the two entities were "different ends of the same piece of string," and an integrated program of management was the only way to preserve the integrity of the entire monument. 
Much of the tension over resource management at Bandelier resulted from the changing cultural climate in the U.S. After the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, the public and its legislators articulated strong concerns about the state of the American physical environment. Throughout the 1960s, burgeoning national awareness of the concept of ecology brought parks to the attention of a powerful grass roots movement. Expanding environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and many others began to promote an environmental agenda. After a decade in which use of the park system overwhelmed preservation of its resources, the Park Service began a dramatic shift in the opposite direction.
The environmental movement was part and parcel of a heightened sensitivity to preserving the natural beauty of the U.S. The "Keep America Beautiful" campaign that Lady Bird Johnson initiated during her husband's presidency became the basis of a groundswell in that late 1960s and early 1970s. "Back-to-nature" movements flourished, the Federal Government proclaimed "Earth Day" in 1970, and the concept of preservation took on social significance previously paralleled only during the Progressive Era. Americans cared about their land, and the Park Service was one beneficiary. Droves of enthusiastic young preservationists sought to enter the agency. Ironically, while many of these people valued the natural attributes of the system, the tone of the era dictated the protection of nature from the depredations of humanity. Visitor use of the park system played a small and unimportant role in this concept of preservation. 
Directors Stephen T. Mather and Horace Albright had initially promoted the park system because of its scenic beauty. During the 1920s and 1930s, use of the parks was their goal, but they promoted the parks to a public that lacked the opportunity and affluence of later generations. Only after World War II could millions of Americans visit the park system. When their impact overwhelmed the system, the NPS responded with capital development programs like Mission 66. By the 1970s, the increases in visitation made management of natural resources like cultural resources, imperative. If the natural resources of the park system were to survive, they required close attention.
Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006