Sen. Martin Heinrich, second from right, chats with, from left, Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott, Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz and Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives Wednesday at Bandelier National Monument. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Michael Chavarria, Governor of Santa Clara Pueblo speaks at Bandelier National Monument Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott addresses the crowd gathered at Bandelier National Monument Wednesday afternoon as Councilor David Izraelevitz, left, and Sen. Martin Heinrich look on. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich was at Bandelier National Monument Wednesday afternoon to announce his plans to introduce legislation establishing Bandelier National Park and Preserve. He was joined by Michael Chavarria, Governor of Santa Clara Pueblo, Joe Aguilar, Governor of Santa Domingo Pueblo, Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott, Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz, Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives and Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
Heinrich said one of the interesting things about his job is that he gets to meet people not only from around New Mexico but from around the country and around the world.
“When I’m trying to explain what makes New Mexico so special to people, it always comes back to the incredible combination of this breathtaking landscape that is the Land of Enchantment, our deep and very complex history as a state and our unique culture. We really are like no place else in the United States of America and I think that Bandelier National Monument really encapsulates each of those things in unrivalled ways,” he said.
He said it is not at all an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important cultural landscapes in North America and that is why he has been so proud to work with the communities in Northern New Mexico to introduce legislation to make Bandelier the nation’s newest national park.
“Bandelier’s mesas and canyons have a human history that goes back for millennia. For nearly a thousand years ancestral pueblo people lived and carried on their daily lives, their religious lives, their culture in these canyons. And I want to make the point that these are not relics; this is a living cultural landscape with ongoing religious and spiritual significance for the descendants who live in the surrounding pueblos, many of whom have joined us here today,” Heinrich said.
He spoke of the opportunity he had to get to know Bandelier in the mid-90s and said he came back a few years ago and did a backpack here with his family.
“We experienced once again Bandelier’s stunning geological wonders, its living history, and we were just left with a deep sense of responsibility for passing along this incredible and important landscape in a way that is unhindered, unmarred for future generations,” Heinrich said. He said more than a century ago, sites were sometimes desecrated, looted and actually destroyed by looters who were literally digging up Native American artifacts for the illicit market and that those deplorable actions inspired a campaign at the time at the turn of the last century to permanently protect the area’s treasures by creating a new national park.
“After the national park proposal got caught up in congressional gridlock, President Woodrow Wilson used his authority under the Antiquities Act to create Bandelier National Monument in 1916, 102 years ago. Only Congress can create a national park and create the highest protection for cultural resources. Many of our best known parks like Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns actually started as national monuments and were later re-designated as national parks by Congress. I believe it’s long past time that we recognize that Bandelier’s historical and natural resource are more than worthy of the greatest level of stewardship that our nation can muster,” Heinrich said.
He said his legislation to establish Bandelier as a national park would permanently protect Bandelier from any extraction industries, prohibiting energy development, oil and gas drilling, mineral and geothermal development within the park’s boundaries.
“We need to do much more than that. We need to build the strongest possible relationship between what I believe is one of the greatest agencies of the federal government the National Park Service and the pueblos and sovereign nations whose history and culture lives on here at Bandelier,” Heinrich said.
He said his legislation would establish a tribal advisory commission which would provide guidance for park management that reflects traditional and historical knowledge and values.
“This would make Bandelier the first American national park where traditional knowledge is explicitly integrated into land management. Additionally the bill would permanently safeguard tribes’ religious rights and practices in this landscape,” he said. “I look forward to working with all New Mexicans to ensure that Bandelier cultural treasures in particular and Northern New Mexico’s history and natural beauty as a whole receive the recognition and protection that they deserve.”
Governor Chavarria thanked Heinrich for taking the lead on the legislation saying it is very important when people visit Bandelier that they see the many artifacts, the traditional cultural properties that the pueblos’ ancestors have left for each and every person.
“For us as pueblo, that’s our educational concepts that we leave for our children so they all understand how we lived off that land, utilized that resource for our traditional, cultural properties but most importantly for our religion. This is our cathedral. This is our place of worship, our pharmacy, our grocery store, our clothing store. It’s a biological classroom, so these sites aren’t meant to be desecrated. These artifacts aren’t meant to be stolen or taken. They are meant for an educational purpose – that we all learn from each other, to educate each other,” Governor Chavarria said. “We are especially appreciative that in its current form, the legislation addresses certain important tribal interests and we look forward to working with the Senator and other members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation on further refinements to the language as this critical legislation progresses through the Congress.”
Governor Aguilar introduced Lieutenant Governor Sammy Garcia, Councilman Diego Calabaza and Councilman Christopher Chavez.
“We are one people. We all grew up here as pueblo nations side by side,” he said
Governor Aguilar said as one of the six culturally affiliated pueblos to the area, Santa Domingo is always concerned with the ability to access the area for religious purposes
“This includes the gathering of plants and minerals and visits to certain areas in the monument. This is not only important to us today, we want the ability for this to continue for generations to come. This is why we support Senator Heinrich’s legislation,” he said.
Council Chair Scott told Heinrich Los Alamos County is very supportive of his legislation to bring the prestige and presence of a national park designation to Bandelier. She said the legislation garnered the whole-hearted and unanimous endorsement of the County back in 2016 through a Council resolution of support for Heinrich’s initiative.
“As the gateway to three nationally acclaimed attractions – the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument – Los Alamos County is perfectly positioned to attract visitors to learn more about Northern New Mexico. So, we’re ready to take the next step forward with you, Senator,” Scott said. “Elevating Bandelier from a monument to a national park status is timely and necessary.”
Scott said Los Alamos County has and will continue to support Bandelier.
“This includes daily Atomic City Transit shuttle service to the monument from May through October and the construction and operation of the nearby White Rock Visitor Center and RV Park which were specifically built and designed with Bandelier visitors in mind. We have already seen a substantial increase in visitation to Bandelier, consistent with that to National Parks across the U.S. and studies have shown that national parks that have been re-designated from national monuments can enjoy as much as 20 percent in increased attendance,” Scott said. “In addition to educational, cultural and other benefits, the re-designation of Bandelier could bring nearly $2 million dollars in new spending and several dozen new jobs to Northern New Mexico and we will work with our Northern New Mexico neighbors to share these opportunities.”
Councilor Izraelevitz said the legislation is another example of Heinrich’s commitment to the region. He said Bandelier’s beauty, hiking trails, wildlife and pueblo cultural experiences rival any national park in the southwest.
“Please know that you will have the County’s support and our commitment to continue providing great lodging, tours, restaurants, services and other amenities in White Rock and Los Alamos and in the surrounding communities in answer to the growth in tourism that we feel confident will be forthcoming one this legislation is passed,” Izraelevitz said.
Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives thanked Heinrich for his leadership on public lands and in bringing forward specifically this measure to create Bandelier as a new national park. He also thanked the pueblo governors and officials and local governments for supporting the proposed legislation. He said he looks at the landscapes in this state as being different to all the other places around the country.
“We have national parks that are dedicated to scenic beauty. We have national parks that are dedicated to historic events, but here, it exemplifies the beauty in the landscape but here also the pueblo peoples lived for millennia. Bandelier combines the natural beauty with the historic presence,” Ives said.
Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation said he grew up in a small village not very far from Bandelier called La Puebla and that some of his earliest childhood memories are of coming to visit this Bandelier. He commended Heinrich for working so hard with such a diverse group of people and being so thoughtful on the Bandelier issue.
“You’ve heard a lot today about the cultural magnificence and spiritual magnificence of this place which certainly cannot be understated. We’ve talked about the economic impacts on local communities is incredibly important. Another thing that is very exciting to me is the habitat this place provides for our wildlife. It’s an incredibly diverse ecosystem that provides habitat for a number of species,” Deubel said. “One of the things that will happen with the passage of this act is a 4,000 acre preserve in some of the most remote backcountry that will actually allow New Mexicans to revert some of this landscape to traditional use There will be hunting activity and the ability to harvest wild organic protein from the landscape. It will help us have an active role in the management of some of our larger big game animals like elk and mule deer which in turn will help us to protect and preserve some of the archeological history that’s contained in here.”
Currently in New Mexico, the National Park Service manages 10 national monuments and one national park – Carlsbad Caverns. Congress alone has the authority to designate a national park.
Heinrich’s staff reported that a recent study by the Headwaters Institute estimates that promoting Bandelier to a national park could result in $1.9 to $2.3 million in new spending, 26-33 new jobs and $840,000 – $1 million in new labor income.
Santa Domingo Pueblo Gov. Joe M. Aguilar addresses the crowd gathered Wednesday afternoon at Bandelier National Monument. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Bandelier National Monument Supt. Jason Lott, left, chats with Santa Domingo Tribal Councilman Christopher Chavez following the announcement by Sen. Martin Heinrich that he is introducing legislation to make the monument a national park. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation expresses his support Wednesday afternoon for legislation changing Bandelier to national park status. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Sen. Martin Heinrich, far left, and tribal leaders from Santa Domingo Pueblo and Santa Clara Pueblo listen Wednesday to Bandelier National Monument Supt. Jason Lott. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Santa Domingo Pueblo Tribal Councilman Christopher Chavez, left, tells Sen. Martin Heinrich Wednesday afternoon what it was like when he worked at Bandelier National Monument as a young man as the two make their way up to a cliff dwelling. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Local government officials and tribal leaders gather Wednesday afternoon at Bandelier National Monument with Sen. Martin Heinrich, fifth from left, for an announcement that Heinrich is introducing legislation to promote Bandelirt to a national park and preserve. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com