U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich To Introduce Legislation To Establish Bandelier National Park And Preserve

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Bandelier National Monument his intent to introduce legislation to establish the Bandelier National Park and Preserve. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich To Introduce Legislation To Establish Bandelier National Park And Preserve

Los Alamos Daily Pos

With tribal leaders, wildlife advocates, and northern New Mexico elected officials in attendance, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), announced his plans to introduce legislation to establish the Bandelier National Park and Preserve.

Heinrich made the announcement Wednesday afternoon at a press conference at Bandelier National Monument.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say this is one of the most important cultural sites in North America,” Heinrich said. “These are not relics, it’s a living cultural landscape.”

Heinrich explained that a backpacking trip at Bandelier with his family left him with a deep sense of responsibility to preserve Bandelier for future generations.

“I look forward to working with all New Mexicans to ensure Bandelier’s cultural treasures in particular, and northern New Mexico’s history and natural beauty as a whole, finally receive the recognition and protection they have long deserved,” he said.

Bandelier National Monument was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Presidents can create national monuments, but only the U.S. Congress can designate a national park. Many national parks, like the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns, started as national monuments and were later re-designated as national parks by Congress, Heinrich said.

“It’s long past time Bandelier has the greatest level of stewardship we can provide,” he said.

Heinrich said the fate of Bears Ears National Monument spurred him to protect Bandelier as soon as possible. Two years ago, President Trump signed an executive order to slash the size of Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah by 85 percent. Much like Bandelier, Bears Ears is home to land and historic sites that hold deep significance for tribes, including Zuni Pueblo and the Navajo Nation. The Trump administration has already started the process to open up some of these lands to oil and gas exploration and uranium mining.

Heinrich’s legislation would permanently protect Bandelier’s resources by specifically prohibiting oil and gas drilling and other mineral and geothermal development within park boundaries.

One of the most important aspects of the proposed legislation is the establishment of a Tribal Guidance Commission. The first of its kind in the U.S., the commission would provide guidance for park management that reflects traditional and historical knowledge and values. In a historic precedent for a national park, traditional knowledge will be required by statute to be integrated into land management planning. Additionally, the bill would permanently safeguard tribes’ religious rights and practices in Bandelier.

“The Santa Clara Pueblo is very appreciative of Sen. Heinrich for taking the lead on advancing legislation that would elevate Bandelier National Monument to national park status,” Santa Clara Pueblo Gov. Michael Chavarria said. “This is our cathedral. We ask the Creator to look down on the senator and the congress and help them make wise decisions.”

Chavarria stressed the importance of the Bandelier site as an educational context for Pueblo children.

“It is the children to come we do this for,” he said. “Although Bandelier is most famous for its ancient pueblo dwellings, it also is a place of ongoing spiritual significance and activities for our people. Its preservation and our ability to access those lands for traditional practices is of the utmost importance to us. 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.”

Santo Domingo Pueblo Gov. Joe M. Aguilar began his remarks in Tewa because, “the people of the past are here with us.”

“As one of the six culturally affiliated Pueblos to the area, we are always concerned with the ability to access the area for religious purposes,” he said. This includes the gathering of plants and minerals and visits to certain areas in the monument. Not only is it important to us today, we want the ability for this to continue for generations to come. This is why we support Sen. Heinrich’s legislation.”

Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott said the Los Alamos County Council fully supports the legislation.

“Los Alamos stands ready to support the increase in tourism,” Scott said. “We’re ready to take the next step.”

“Bandelier is our most popular tourist destination and we expect this designation will increase its attendance and enjoyment by all,” Councilor David Izraelevitz said.

New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director Jesse Deubel said that by making Bandelier a national park, this bill helps promote the truly unique cultural, archaeological and historical heritage of this incredible landscape while also benefiting the local, regional and state economy.

“In designating a portion of the national park to be managed as a Preserve, this bill creates new opportunities for sportsmen and women to access an area that is truly one of America’s great national treasures,” Deubel said.

Heinrich hopes the legislation will move fairly swiftly through congress, saying “You never know with legislation, but given the breadth of people working toward this goal, I’m optimistic.”

Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz, left, and Council Chair Sara Scott with Sen. Martin Heinrich Wednesday at the Bandelier press conference to express the Los Alamos community's endorsement of the proposed legislation. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com
Tribal leaders, wildlife advocates, and northern New Mexico elected officials gathered to endorse the legislation to make Bandelier National Monument a national park. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com