Administrative History
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Chapter II:

On June 10, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6166, an act that transferred to the Park Service control of "public buildings, national monuments, and national cemeteries." [1] The act was the culmination of many years of lobbying by Stephen Mather, the first director of the Park Service, and of his successor Horace Albright. This administrative reorganization effectively doubled the number of units managed by the agency. Included in the transfer was Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, as well as all the other national monuments administered by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of War.

Beyond the new prominence that is commonly proportional to size, the reorganization also gave the Park Service a substantial presence east of the Mississippi River, where most of the American people lived. At stake, Albright confessed years later, was the survival of the agency's political independence. Before 1933, the influence of the Park Service had been limited almost exclusively to remote areas in the largely unpopulated lands of the American West. Executive Order 6166 gave the agency a genuinely national scope and constituency as well as a new mandate, making "the Park Service a very strong agency with such a distinctive and independent field of service as to end its possible eligibility for merger or consolidation with another bureau." [2] Specifically, that "bureau" was the Forest Service, which since Gifford Pinchot's administration had challenged the necessity of its rival.

In addition to giving the Park Service jurisdiction over further natural and scenic resources, the reorganization and the Historic Sites Act that was passed soon afterwards gave the agency sole responsibility for preserving the nation's archeological and historical heritage, a field in which the Forest Service had no standing.

During the bureaucratic tug of war that had accompanied the establishment in 1916 of the Park Service, legislation to consolidate the administration of all the national monuments in the new agency had been challenged vigorously by the Forest Service. Later, the proposal had been dropped. In 1933, however, the Forest Service was slow in responding to Executive Order 6166, which again proposed consolidation. For largely unknown reasons, opposition was not formally expressed until late September, more than six weeks after Executive Order 6166 had become effective. Based on a loophole in the legislation, the secretary of agriculture appealed the transfer belatedly, observing that the monuments "were essential to the work of this department and should not therefore be transferred." [3]

Complicating the orchestration of clear and forceful opposition on the part of the Forest Service was a confusing dialogue that its staff was having with representatives of the Park Service. Initially, it seems, the Park Service did not propose to acquire all 16 of the monuments that lay within boundaries of the national forests. Precisely which monuments were wanted, however, is not clear from the historical record. By different authorities, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is cited as one the Park Service did want and one that it didn't want. [4] The administrative fates of Sunset Crater, Tonto, Walnut Canyon, and Chiricahua national monuments were clouded by the same ambiguity.

This confusion may also have stemmed from conflict within the ranks of the two agencies as well as between them. In the Park Service, for example, Frank "Boss" Pinkley, the notoriously independent superintendent of Southwest Monuments, certainly opposed the establishment of Saguaro National Monument, an acquisition the Washington office was actively promoting. [5] In this way, dialogue between agency officials at the local Southwestern level and their ensuing recommendations may have conflicted with the larger and political interests of the central bureaucracies. This conflict may have generated the kind of contradictory correspondence that has been preserved.

Whatever the complexities and perceptions may have been, the appeal was rejected and a negotiated division of jurisdiction over the monuments also failed. On January 28, 1934, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes reported that the administration of all the Forest Service monuments had indeed been transferred. [6]

An unfortunate legacy of the inconclusive dialogue between the two agencies was an embittered perception that the Park Service had reneged on a verbal agreement to take only some of those monuments. For years this sense of betrayal additionally strained an already contentious rivalry. [7]

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Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001