Administrative History
NPS Logo

Chapter III:

In the wake of the revised MISSION 66 prospectus, archeologists Steen and Vivian respectively drafted a formal report and an archeological resume that outlined the new importance of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and the nearby ruins. [1] Steen concluded with a proposal that between 1,000 and 1,200 acres be added to the monument, in a narrow strip descending the river as far as and including the TJ Ruin. To Vivian's resume was attached a map of the newly proposed boundaries for the monument. All of this land was administered either by the Gila National Forest or the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which had purchased the Heart Bar Ranch in 1951 as part of a long-term project to reintroduce elk into the area.

In order to negotiate new boundaries for the monument that would be satisfactory to all agencies concerned, it was agreed to hold a joint meeting at the site in September 1956. Colonel Ely attended this meeting, as well. He reported that the Forest Service had no objections to the Park Service consolidating its holdings. [2] Actually, however, forest staff had already expressed opposition to including West Fork and East Fork trails within the extended boundaries, citing their reluctance to hamper access into the wilderness for recreation and hunting. [3] The game department shared this concern about access.

Eventually a compromise between agencies was reached. This compromise entailed dividing an expanded monument into two tracts: 320 adjacent acres of wilderness would be added to the 160 originally set aside as Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and a separate tract of 140 acres at the TJ Ruin would be transferred to the Park Service, as well.

The proposed division appeared to accommodate everyone. The TJ tract, it seemed, was large enough to hold the proposed headquarters, parking, service areas, and exhibits for the monument; and most of the land in the river canyon between the TJ site and the cliff dwellings remained with the Forest Service and the game department. In addition, Homer Pickens, the director of the game department, informally agreed with the Forest Service to trade 35 acres of the Heart Bar Ranch in exchange for forest and Bureau of Land Management lands elsewhere in New Mexico. This Heart Bar site could then be used as a headquarters for the Wilderness District of the Gila National Forest. [4]

A minor glitch soon appeared, however. When the Park Service had the TJ area surveyed in 1957, the boundary corners did not match the original survey, a misalignment that delayed progress on the necessary withdrawals until after Homer Pickens retired. [5] In February 1958, a survey crew from the Bureau of Land Management re-set some missing section corners near Gila Cliff Dwellings and the TJ site; and five months later, when the West Fork was sufficiently low to cross in vehicles, representatives of the Park Service, the Forest Service, and the game department met again at the TJ site. [6]

Meanwhile, a new problem had arisen. A few days before the meeting, Sam Servis, from the supervisor's office of the Gila National Forest, and Gordon Hammon, from the regional office of the Forest Service, toured the TJ site together and agreed that the Park Service was asking for too much land. [7] If the much discussed Copperas road were built, a right-of-way might have to be established near the ruin. And recreational facilities as well as a forest ranger station might also have to be constructed. Servis and Hammon believed that the expanded albeit divided monument would still control the best sites for those developments.

In part, behind this new and more restrictive line was concern that the new director of New Mexico Game and Fish would not abide by the informal understanding to exchange the Heart Bar headquarters area for land elsewhere. [8] At the interagency meeting on July 8, the Park Service representatives could not agree to a reduced TJ tract, however, and the meeting adjourned inconclusively. [9]

Finally, in December 1958, the unraveling ends of the earlier understanding were gathered into a new compromise. Fred Kennedy, the regional forester, revealed at yet another interagency meeting that he was planning to proceed with the withdrawal of the land adjacent to the TJ Ruin for his own agency's administrative purposes. At that point, Harthon Bill, the assistant regional director for the Park Service, suggested that the administrative site might be used jointly. [10] Subsequently, Bill's inspiration was accepted by both agencies. It was justified as an opportunity to avoid duplication of services, to reduce construction and operating costs, and to model cooperative relations.

In the final agreement, 53 acres around the TJ Ruin and 320 acres adjacent to the original 1907 withdrawal were to be added to Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. An easement 300 feet wide was also to be reserved along the West Fork for public travel, resolving the long-standing concern about access through the narrow canyon to the wilderness.

To legally revise the monument boundaries required either an act of Congress or a proclamation of the president, using the authority provided by the 1906 Antiquities Act. On April 17, 1962, Presidential Proclamation No. 3467 was signed. Its publication three days later in the Federal Register consummated the transfer of land. [11] For the sake of simplicity, this proclamation additionally transferred to the Park Service title to the original 160 acres. When the land had been reserved in 1907, it had been endowed with a dual status as national monument and as a property of the Gila National Forest. Curiously, the executive order in 1933 had not revoked the dual status.

Also, shortly before President John F. Kennedy signed the document expanding the monument, the Forest Service withdrew—by means of Public Land Order 2655—107 acres adjacent to the proposed TJ unit of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. [12] The interagency understanding to use this withdrawal as a joint administrative site was subsequently realized through a cooperative agreement that was formalized on July 22, 1964. [13]

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001