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Chapter II:

Pinkley And The Southwestern National Monuments

Less than a week after the September appeal had been formally denied, Pinkley was notified by his superiors in Washington that Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument had been transferred to his jurisdiction. He was directed to inquire whether Forest Service funds or personnel should be transferred along with the monument. [8] As it turned out, neither men nor money was to supplement Pinkley's new responsibilities.

The superintendent of the Southwestern National Monuments, however, was a man long accustomed to limited budgets. [9] With few assets beyond his own rough charisma, "Boss" Pinkley had in the preceding 10 years organized the widely scattered and largely volunteer custodians of those Department of the Interior monuments that were in the Southwest into a professional staff that accommodated a large number of visitors on a near pittance. In 1927, for example, 270,000 people visited the Southwestern Monuments for which the Park Service had allocated only $15,000; in the same year, Grand Canyon National Park, which drew only 162,356 visitors, received more than $132,000. [10] Obviously, Pinkley had to be tight with his money. Equally apparent, to Pinkley and to contemporary historians as well, was a disproportion in funding that signaled a hierarchical distinction at the time between national parks and mere national monuments.

Meager funding was not Pinkley's only administrative problem. Before and after his appointment as superintendent of Southwestern Monuments, the more scenic monuments were gradually being elevated to the superior status of parks. Eventually, it seemed, the monuments might only represent the culls of the Park Service properties. Certainly, Pinkley's concern had substantial justification: eight of the 12 national parks currently designated for the American Southwest began as national monuments, including Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Carlsbad Caverns national parks, which were all redesignated during Pinkley's tenure with the Park Service.

This evolution of status had its root in a very utilitarian feature of the Antiquities Act of 1906, the original enabling legislation for designating national monuments. These monuments were decreed by executive order of the president of the United States—independently of congressional authorization. National parks, on the other hand, were the legal products of substantial and often lengthy wrangling in Congress, where the interests of potential resource developers and the foibles of several hundred individual congressmen complicated the legislative mechanics of preservation.

The facility of an executive order had quickly attracted the attention of those interested in preserving American landscapes. In 1908, for example, President Theodore Roosevelt used his authority under the Antiquities Act to set aside a little more than 800,000 acres as Grand Canyon National Monument and a year later 600,000 acres as the Mount Olympus National Monument. [11] In these cases, Roosevelt possibly exceeded the originally envisioned scope of the Antiquities Act. But the creative application of this legal instrument did protect threatened land quickly and for a long time without effective challenge. Later, in a more leisurely way, many of the properties were negotiated up to the status of national park through the uncertainties of partisan agencies, congressional loyalties, and other political hurdles.

In short, during the formative years of the Park Service, the directors of that agency favored large scenic parks over monuments and allocated far more money and attention towards developing the former category. Meanwhile, monuments commonly languished unless there were plans for eventually transforming the property into a park.

Unfortunately, by the time Executive Order 6166, the Historic Sites Act, and other New Deal measures provided the Park Service with increased funds and a dominant role in the preservation of the nation's historic and prehistoric heritage, Pinkley's embittered frustration over years of meager budgets and the erosion of his administrative demesne had isolated the "Boss" from the Washington office, where he had come to be viewed as a "cantankerous, aging iconoclast." [12] By 1933, Pinkley no longer had sufficient weight and influence to successfully balance his own agenda against the agency's new tilt towards the more populous East. There, the inspiring legacies of the American Revolution and Civil War simply drew more interest and dollars than remote Indian sites.

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Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001