Bandelier seeks input on Foundation Plan

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By Arin McKenna

As Bandelier National Monument and the National Park Service near their 100th anniversaries in 2016, a process of reassessing the value and direction of all 402 NPS units is underway.
Each unit is developing a foundation document that examines its core purpose and significance, its most important resources and values and the interpretive themes that tell the park’s important stories.
Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott is soliciting the public’s help in developing that document, by asking what they value about the park.
“Certainly there’s hiking and archeology and a couple of other things, but you have your own connections,” Lott said. “You see value in a lot of different ways. Maybe it’s your business — there’s a value there, or maybe the fact that it’s close and accessible and in your backyard.
“We’re going to ask you what you really think about your time with Bandelier, your experiences, and we want to understand why it’s important. Because we’re going to take this foundation document, and it actually is going to be key to everything we do. Anything that we’re looking at in the park, it needs to come back to this foundation plan.”
Greg Jarvis, planner from the National Park Service Denver Service Center, explained the objectives of the Foundation Plans at two public meetings held May 13.
Each plan defines the purpose of the unit, develops “significance statements” that describe what is important it and delineates fundamental resources and values the unit contains.
“Those are things that if they’re lost (the resources), it has a serious detriment to the value, significance and purpose of the park,” Jarvis said.
The plan also will include “interpretive themes” that describe stories the park should tell.
The second part of the document gives direction for future planning. It includes an assessment for developing and prioritizing the park’s planning and data needs for the future.
“This is a more dynamic part of the document, which should be looked at every three to five years in the future, because these things are going to change over time,” Jarvis said.
Each foundation plan also includes a park atlas derived from a geographic information system (GIS), computer-mapping tool that can be used to identify resources such as hydrology, vegetation, infrastructure and facilities.
Bandelier’s last foundation plan was developed in 2008. Lott finds it very inadequate, since its primary focus is the monument’s archeology.
“But it didn’t really talk about recreation. To me, when I think about Bandelier, I think about hiking: going out there, self-exploration, self-discovery, these archeological sites, figuring out this landscape is much broader and was used much more than I really thought it was. It didn’t talk about the wilderness. It mentioned the wilderness, but it didn’t talk about it. I think that’s huge. It’s 77 percent of our park … and I think Bandelier is a great place to talk about wilderness because wilderness is about the absence of man, but when you go out into our wilderness, it is man. But it’s man in more of a natural state. And I think that’s a story. There’s a whole area to expand upon on that. but that’s missing in the plan.”
Only a handful of people turned out for the public meetings, but their input was already generating ideas.
Michael Altherr, past president of the Los Alamos Mountaineers, and Daniel Creveling, membership chair for the organization, attended the meeting in White Rock.
Altherr was pleased a strong document would be in place in the event that Lott leaves Bandelier. Altherr praised Lott’s leadership, especially after the Las Conchas fire when he encouraged people to experience the changes wrought by the fire.
Not surprisingly, the monument’s natural resources are some of the main attractions for Altherr.
“There are a plethora, I think, of other opportunities available in the park from a back country and natural perspective, that I think we’re only just beginning to look below the tip of the iceberg to explore some of those opportunities,” Altherr said. “That’s what attracts me to Bandelier, and it’s in my backyard. This whole Pajarito Plateau is just a spectacular place, and one part of it that’s preserved in a near pristine fashion is Bandelier.”
Creveling would like to work with park staff to identify areas where the mountaineers could conduct orienting training.
Lott is behind the idea, but said staff will have to determine where that could be conducted without detrimental effects to natural and cultural resources, such as nesting areas for peregrine falcons.
“Is this an acceptable use of the land? I think we could find that it is, with a little work, but we have to balance that, as you said, with preservation and that sort of thing,” Lott said. “As managers we have to balance that, and we need to make sure that one activity is not degrading another activity.”
One attendee who volunteers at Bandelier felt more of the stories needed to be told, such as the Spanish period, the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Harvey Girls/lodge period.
The planning team is soliciting public comment until May 31. To comment, go to parkplanning.nps.gov/band.
“Your input is very valuable,” Lott said. “This is your park. This is your backyard. I love it when the public takes ownership of their parks and you hold us accountable.”
For more information or to make comments, go to parkplanning.nps.gov/band.