Web Newsletter Dec 2000
In May 2000, the Bandelier area suffered a catastrophic fire started as a
prescribed burn by Bandelier fire staff. The fire ultimately burned over
48,000 acres on the eastern flank of the Jemez Mountains. Over 400 families
lost their homes in neighboring Los Alamos. Bandelier superintendent Roy
Weaver accepted responsibility for the fire and took early retirement.
Several members of his staff were moved to other assignments.
In November, newly appointed superintendent Dennis Vasquez took office at
Bandelier. Dennis started in the National Park System at White Sands
National Monument at age 18. In only two weeks, Dennis says, he had found
his calling and determined to make the Park Service his career. He is
eloquent about the value of the national parks as the repository of the
history, culture, and landscapes of our country - the heart and soul of
America. Dennis subsequently worked at Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Sunset
Crater. He was chief naturalist at Big Bend and was natural resource
training manager at the Grand Canyon training center before becoming
superintendent at White Sands, where his career had begun many years before.
Despite the sad events of the spring and the massive fire recovery efforts
still in progress, Dennis is enthusiastic about the opportunities at
Bandelier. The National Park Service has set up a program to establish 13
Learning Centers located throughout the country. Dennis hopes to have one
of the centers at Bandelier. The centers are intended to focus on history,
culture, and ecology. With major fires in the area in 1977, 1996, and 2000,
there is great potential for education on fire effects in Southwestern
forests. The duties of the Bandelier superintendent include membership on
the board of the newly acquired Valles Caldera National Preserve, often
called the Yellowstone of the West. Dennis relishes the opportunity to help
set up the management practices of the preserve and sees excellent learning
opportunities in the combined Bandelier/Valles area.
Bandelier is recognized as a leader in science-based resource management.
Dennis intends to retain that leadership with the help of his committed
staff. Many issues face the park, including management of Bandelier's upper
watershed, presently owned by the Forest Service; an elk population
explosion; introduction of big horn sheep and possibly wolves; preservation
of a small mountain lion population; erosion control in the pinyon-juniper
areas of Bandelier's Wilderness; continued cooperation with neighboring
pueblos on issues arising from the Native American Graves Protection Act;
aging and cramped administrative facilities; continued involvement with the
multiagency task force formed to deal with the fire; and outreach to the
community. Life for Dennis certainly won't be dull!
The Cerro Grande Fire devastated many lives in Los Alamos. The community,
the state, even the country are rallying to help rebuild the lives of the
people who lost their homes. The Park Service devoted much time, money,
personnel, and resources within its areas of expertise to the recovery
efforts. A legacy of the fire is lingering resentment against the Park
Service and animosity against the concept of prescribed burns in the
nation's forests. Dennis realizes that the best way to regain good will is
to continue in the best way possible the tasks at Bandelier entrusted to the
Park Service by the American people
Throughout the controversies surrounding it, Bandelier remains a beautiful
and wild land, serenely sheltering its ancient ruins and the animals and
plants of its high mesas and narrow canyons.
Its friends remain faithful.