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save the Jemez

By Ted Davis, Save The Jemez Inc., transcribed from Albuquerque Journal, February 27, 1987

Save the Jemez recently released a proposal written in the form of a draft legislative bill entitled “Jemez Mountains National Park and Other Land Management Designations.” Our proposal generated widespread interest locally and nationally. However, several misconceptions about the goals and impacts of the management proposal have surfaced, and we would like to address the facts of this issue.

The fundamental goals of the proposal are to assure the protection of the world class archeological resources (world class means sites qualifying for the United Nations’ World Heritage Site Classification) in the area; to bring into public ownership the 100,000 acre privately owned Baca Ranch that sits at the heart of the Jemez Range; preserve the natural beauty of the area; to provide sustainable economic self-sufficiency for local residents through continued grazing, small scale logging, fuelwood collecting; and to provide for recreational activities which include hunting, fishing, hiking, sightseeing, and other activities.

The bill will create the national park consisting of the current 32,000 acre Bandelier National Monument, about 60,000 acres of private land in the Baca Location No. 1 containing the Valle Caldera (one of the world’s largest collapsed volcanic craters), and 36,000 acres of national forest land containing significant archeological sites of the prehistoric Pajaritan culture, and the Dome Wilderness. No logging, mining, woodgathering or hunting would be allowed; but fishing, camping, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and other forms of recreation would be permitted.

Three National Archeological Preserves (Jemez, Gallina culture and Chama) totaling about 400,000 acres of lands extraordinarily rich in archeological treasures will be created. These three areas may contain as many as 10,000 archeological sites, including many world class pueblo ruins. Only commercial logging and mining would be prohibited in these areas. Woodgathering, grazing, hunting, fishing and all other forms of outdoor recreation would continue in the National Archeological Preserves, since these activities have in the past been shown to have little impact upon cultural resources.

These lands are currently under Forest Service management, but need to be transferred to National Park Service management. The reasons we propose this transfer are simple. The Park Service was created in large part to manage the nation’s most important archeological resources. It is the agency most expert in and committed to the management of such resources.

Recent history has shown that the Santa Fe National Forest has been unable to protect these resources from damage by vandals or during roadbuilding and

timber sales. Timber values are marginal in the portions of the forest highest in cultural resources, and require taxpayer subsidies to the logging companies in order to be economically feasible.

We chose to designate these areas as preserves because we do not support large scale archeological excavations, or extensive ruins stabilization or interpretative development at most of the sites in these areas, as would be expected with a park designation. Many ruins and other special areas in the Jemez Mountains are considered sacred to the Pueblo Indians. We also wanted to preserve the right of the local people and visitors to hunt, graze livestock, and gather firewood there, activities a park designation would prohibit.

Finally, a Jemez Mountains National Recreation Area of about 610,000 acres would be created, to be administered by the United States Forest Service. About 30,000 acres of the Baca location will become part of the recreation area. This area is to be managed to enhance its recreation potential, but at the same time will allow small timber sales to continue, in order to support local economies. This area includes most of the prime timber land in the Jemez Mountains. Grazing, woodgathering, hunting and all forms of outdoor recreation would continue to be permitted in the recreation area.

Our proposal would open up prime recreation land, protect areas containing dense concentrations of important archeological sites, and allow for the continuation of traditional economic activities in the Jemez Mountains. No private land would be condemned or seized. More land would be open to the public for woodgathering, hunting, grazing and recreation with our bill than is the case currently. We feel this is a balanced, conservation bill which would prove to be of great benefit to the public, and which encourages appropriate resource management.

Many people seem to oppose this idea simply because it represents change. Unfortunately, change is inevitable. We can either plan for change in an orderly and constructive way, or suffer the consequences. The population of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and the numbers of out-of-state tourists will continue to grow. The recreational demands upon the public lands in the Jemez Mountains are going to increase. Unless it is acquired for the public soon, the Baca location could soon be the scene of a ski resort, condos and the other housing, a golf course and an airport. We believe our proposal is the best way to preserve as much of the area as is practically possible, to plan for the growth which is bound to occur, and to maximize economic benefits to the local and state economies.

Save the Jemez Draft, January 5, 1987.

In the 1980s, a group of local residents started a movement to create a national park in the Jemez Mountains. Here is their proposal: