June 2000

Cerro Grande Fire: This summary of the fire is intended for our out-of-town Friends. Los Alamos people are painfully familiar with the details. The fire was started by Bandelier personnel as a prescribed bum, intentionally set to bum underbrush and accumulated fuel on Cerro Grande. The flames got out of control and high winds spread the fire rapidly across the east face of the Jemez Mountains. In Los Alamos, over 400 homes were completely burned. Mercifully, there were no deaths or injuries, but the impact on the town is traumatic. Almost everyone in town knows someone who is affected. I've identified 10 members of the Friends of Bandelier who homes were lost. The fire burned over 47,700 acres, only a little in Bandelier itself, mostly along State Road 4. Even Cerro Grande doesn't look badly burned. (Cerro Grande is the peak south of Pajarito Mountain. You can see it well from State Road 4, but not from Los Alamos.)

On the hills above Los Alamos National Laboratory, the canyon walls are badly burned, but there are large tracts of unburned trees scattered along the slopes. Not so for the hills above Los Alamos townsite, which are incinerated - nothing but black tree trunks looking like eerie toothpicks. The fire burned north into Santa Clara Canyon, where the Indians have recreation and camping sites. It appears that the fire did not bum down from the crest of the mountains into the Valles Caldera that the government is currently purchasing. It is difficult to be more precise because the forests are closed due to drought or post-fire hazards. Final authority to conduct a prescribed bum lies with the superintendent of the affected park. Roy Weaver has accepted responsibility and will retire on July 2. He faces possible disciplinary action. What a devastating blow for Roy! He truly loves Los Alamos, Bandelier, and the National Park Service and wanted only to protect them. This awful event follows the death of his son in December and illness of his wife that forced her to curtail her job as a teacher. Truly a biblical tragedy, like the trials of Job. At our June 10 meeting of the Board of Trustees, board members directed me to write a letter to Roy thanking him for his service and leadership. During Roy's term, Bandelier became a leader in ecological research and restoration, resource protection management, and relations with American Indians under the Native American Graves Protection Act. The monument took the lead for many Park Service initiatives. Roy consulted with local pueblo leaders about management of Tsankawi and hired local puebloans to do restorative work. I have to add that Roy strongly supported and encouraged the efforts of the Friends of Bandelier. As I have said many times, the effectiveness of a Friends group is solely dependent on support from their park.


Bandelier personnel are trying hard to get back to normal operations as visitors arrive for the summer. Alan Cox, supervisor of Chiricahua National Monument in southern Arizona, is acting superintendent. Bids are out service-wide for a new superintendent, a process that normally takes about three months. We asked Alan if he wanted to change any of Roy's requests for our grants, but he declined. Our grants for the year 2000 are much the same as in the past: items that would not otherwise be funded. Here is the list, for a total of $14,400.

Once again we fund the daily summer Coffee-with a-Ranger sessions and share expenses of the Cultural Awareness Pueblo Crafts weekly demonstrations with Southwest Parks and Monuments and Bandelier Trading Company. Also, each year we purchase a craft item from one or more of the demonstrators. ($1,300 total) Interpreters also want to mount a millennium exhibit showing 1000 years at Bandelier ($1,500). We'll fund cleaning and conservation of a prehistoric hafted ax (ax with handle still attached) ($400). The ax was spotted in Frijoles Canyon by a young visitor and recovered by rangers. We will purchase a new drinking water hydrant for the far end of the Cottonwood picnic area ($500). This money was donated by the Los Alamos Pathways Association in recognition of work by maintenance supervisor Carlos Gonzales, who restored retaining walls for a historic trail in Los Alamos. In addition, the rangers need a projector for portable PC computers so they can give better presentations ($2,000).

Bandelier has a new staff archaeologist. Rory Gauthier is from Los Alamos, an archaeological expert on the Pajarito Plateau where Bandelier is located. Rory worked at Chaco Canyon, Glen Canyon, and EI Malpais. He is happy to be back home. Rory reports that 60% of Bandelier has now been surveyed for archaeological resources. He asked for $6,000 to augment the $13,100 from other sources to survey 200 more acres and for $200 to develop 38 rolls of film taken during past surveys. Also on the request list was a map cabinet for storing survey maps. We were all delighted when board member Fletcher Catron offered a map cabinet from his firm. We also agreed to fund butterfly research in the elk study areas in the backcountry ($2,500). Butterflies are good indicators of healthy environments, much like canaries in coal mines.

Here we ran out of money.

Other News

Chief of Interpretation Al Seidenkranz is retiring July 2, mostly for medical reasons. Al has been our liaison since 1991. Resource Manager Charisse Sydoriak is moving to the Santa Fe Regional Office. We wish them both well. This represents a complete change of management at Bandelier. These two positions will be filled by the new superintendent.

The Nightwalks have started at Bandelier on Tuesday evenings: $6.00 per adult/$3.00 per child, reservations required at (505) 672-3681, ext. 517. The walks are as lovely as ever. I've canceled the annual butterfly count for this year because of postfire closures and drought on Burnt Mesa.

Bandelier is a wounded place. Bitter resentment against the Park Service is rampant in Los Alamos because of the fire damage, although most people here are just profoundly sad. We are sad too. It is a hard time, but we are still Friends.

Dorothy Hoard, President, Board of Trustees.

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