LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – A conservation group is calling on members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation to rethink proposed legislation that would change the designation of Bandelier National Monument to a national park.
While one of the goals is to attract more tourists to the region with the “national park” brand, the nonprofit group Caldera Action said Bandelier would not be able to cope with additional crowding because of inadequate and crumbling infrastructure and limited staffing.
The group also is worried about opening up part of Bandelier to hunting and trapping, saying there are other locations throughout the Jemez Mountains that already allow for hunting and doing so at Bandelier would complicate management for the National Park Service.
The group’s board of directors sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich outlining their concerns. They called on the two Democratic senators to push Congress to address severe funding shortfalls for the National Park Service before promoting Park Service sites as economic development tourist attractions.
“Decaying and inadequate infrastructure, deficient staffing, staff housing shortages and the delicacy of the cultural and natural features that attract the public, all argue for leaving Bandelier a national monument,” the group said.
Tucked into northern New Mexico’s ancient canyons, Bandelier has a long history that stretches back more than 11,000 years to the days when nomadic hunters and gatherers tracked wildlife across the region’s mesas and canyons. Grand multistory structures were built into the walls of Frijoles Canyon and along Frijoles Creek centuries ago, but all that remains are stone and mortar outlines of the settlements.
Bandelier was designated a national monument under the Antiquities Act in 1916 to protect the area’s cultural features.