Administrative History
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Chapter VII:

1975 to the present

After 1975, when the Gila National Forest began managing the monument again, the interpretive program changed very little from the policies established in the 1960s. By cooperative agreement, the Park Service continues to maintain the displays located in the visitor center. Roving uniformed staff also continue to be the primary interpretive resource for visitors to Gila Cliff Dwellings. [33] Furthermore, the monument rangers have been hired since 1986 from the ranks of the Park Service, in order to bring to the monument that agency's formal interpretive training as well as experience. These employees are transferred to the Forest Service for the duration of their assignment to the monument, which must last at least two years and not extend past three years.

In 1978, to assess the current program of interpretation and to make recommendations for improvements in the future, an Interpretive Prospectus was drafted by Jane Harvey, a planner with the Park Service's Harpers Ferry Center. [34] Three years later and after some revisions the prospectus was approved. [35] Recommendations in the prospectus focused more on interpretive media than personal services, and most of these comments addressed the visitor center. The prospectus recommended a greater concentration on exhibits that displayed the material culture of the Mogollon, a recommendation that echoed observations about sparsity and vagueness made 10 years earlier. In addition, for the slide show, a broader vision of the wilderness was suggested to explain environmental processes as well as to summarize terrain. To date, no specific plans have been scheduled to fully implement the changes recommended in the Interpretive Prospectus.

One sizable change at the monument was the replacement in 1980 of the old contact trailer with a new trailer at the mouth of Cliff Dweller Canyon. [36] The contact station's function, however, remained the same: to dispense information about the monument and about the surrounding wilderness. The new trailer is regularly manned by a uniformed interpreter in the summer, and it also contains a few exhibits "of the 'home-made' variety," [37] including replicas as well as a few authentic prehistoric tools, a scale model of the cliff ruins, and displays relating to natural history. Audio tapes that interpret the cliff dwellings are available at the contact station, and so is a Spanish translation of the trail guide. The English version is available at the bridge just past the contact station.

Deleted from the 1978 draft of the Interpretive Prospectus were suggestions to develop interpretation of the TJ Ruin, a revision generated by the decision to hold the site in reserve for the future. A partial consequence of the decision not to excavate at the TJ site and elsewhere has been an informal but substantial scaling back of the monument's theme of interpretation as proposed in 1968. No longer aspiring to interpret nearly two millennium of Mogollon development and the evolutionary interplay of environment and culture, the primary purpose of the monument was formulated in the 1986 Statement for Management as providing visitors "a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people who lived in the area in the 13th and 14th centuries." [38] Later, in the 1988 statement for interpretation, the monument's archeological theme was reduced to "[t]he world of the Prehistoric Cliff Dwellers," [39] a scope that excludes all but one or two of perhaps 40 generations represented on the monument.

One thing that has very much enhanced the interpretation of the cliff dwellings was the publication in 1986 of The Archeology of Gila Cliff Dwellings, [40] which includes the first formal descriptions of items recovered by Vivian in 1963. Unfortunately—for reasons that include the brevity of the architecture's occupation, its anomalous character, its intrusive cultural affiliation, previous looting, and problems with the records of provenience—it seems that Gila Cliff Dwellings "is a site with few implications for regional prehistory." [41]

In addition to the Interpretive Prospectus, two additional documents important to the long-term management of cultural resources have been drafted since responsibility for the monument was transferred to the Gila National Forest: the 1981 and the 1987 resources management plans. [42] There were some antecedents to these plans—including the 1968 archeological research management plan, and a three-page plan developed in 1973 [43] —but these were brief. Reporting on the resource management program in 1975, the superintendent wrote that the program was so limited that "the value of a summary (Form 10-401) would be negligible." [44]

The 1981 and 1987 plans were more extensive. Each described 14 distinct projects for the improved management of cultural resources, and both plans sought to balance the needs of preservation and protection with the interests of research. [45] Constrained by limited budgets, not all of the proposed projects have been funded, of course, and as a result there is considerable overlap between the two plans. For practical reasons, the work that was funded has occasionally subsumed several of the proposals into one project. To date, the TJ Ruin has been mapped and a limited collection of surface samples from that site analyzed. [46] The entire monument has been resurveyed for archeological sites with an accompanying assessment currently in draft form, [47] and this administrative history is a product of the 1987 plan, as well. Notably, these projects contribute to a broader interpretive potential for the monument. They also provide specific information needed to plan and assess strategies to protect cultural resources.

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Last Updated: 23-Apr-2001