Friends of Bandelier newsletter
December 2008

Dear e-Friends of Bandelier

Each autumn we check in with the Bandelier Rangers to see how they, and the projects we funded, have fared over the year. Our first question, of course, is how the national parks will fare in this distressed economy. Superintendent Brad Traver said his sources are cautiously optimistic that Congress will come up with a 2009 budget by March and that Bandelier's Visitor Center $3.2 million remodel will be funded.

The Friends biggest 2008 projects were matching Congressional Challenge Grants. We paid half of $27,000 to initiate Bandelier's becoming a climate-friendly park. Using our money, the rangers calculated that their total emissions per year are 278 metric tons of carbon equivalents. Now they strive to reduce that amount. They installed solar panels to generate 1 kilowatt for campground lights and bought weather stripping for the historic 1930s buildings. Los Alamos County crews came down with heat detectors to locate all the leaks. Almost half of Bandelier's carbon footprint is from vehicle emissions. Now they are working to whittle down that source (obviously also using other money.) They purchased a Prius hybrid for long-distance travel and a cute little electric flat-bed truck for hauling things around in the park. To reduce traffic at special events, the rangers hope to partner with the Los Alamos bus system. Our money is now all spent, but Bandelier is on its way to meeting its goal of being carbon-neutral by its 100th birthday - 2016. Obviously, their emissions can't be reduced to zero so the park will have to buy some carbon credits. "We are not in the power generation business," said Brad. (Thank Goodness!! The thought of wind turbines on Burnt Mesa is not a happy one.)

Part of the Challenge Grant was for education. Bandelier held a sustainability logo contest for students. Winner was Los Alamos High School student Lily Fehler. The park will put Lily's logo on magnets to go on everything - vehicles, signs, solar panels, garbage cans, etc. (I tried to find Lily's logo on the Bandelier website but couldn't. It will probably appear soon.) We try to warn the rangers not to be too aggressive on education. People come to Bandelier for a nice quiet vacation, not a lecture series.

Our second Challenge Grant funded focus group meetings with underserved constituents. Bandelier's contractor has finished meeting with Native Americans from San Ildefonso, Cochiti and Zuni pueblos. (Zuni Pueblo is 175 air miles away, but the Zuni people rather fiercely maintain their ties to the area.) A written report is not finished, but Chief of Interpretation Lynne Dominy feels the meetings have great potential for improving participants' visits to the park. It seems many Pueblo people have felt that other visitors regard them as part of the exhibits whenever they visit Bandelier. The second part of the focus group grant, Hispanic communities, is still in progress.

We asked what requests we might expect for next year's Friends grants. Lynne said they expected more matching opportunities, so want us to be nimble in providing matching funds.

Looking back on past projects, Brad says that they are currently ahead of schedule with the piñon-juniper restoration and expect to finish it in less than five years. The Friends funded experiments 10 years ago. Workers cut down trees and spread the branches for mulch. I called it slash and trash; the land looks like it had been caught in the crossfire of a vicious war. But, the treatment does work wonders; wildflowers and grasses sprout on the eroded soil. The rangers treated a large area along the Lower Alamo Trail south of Frijoles canyon about eight years ago. People used to stop me at the farmer's market and ask, "Did the Friends of Bandelier pay for THAT?" Brad says they are planning a prescribed burn on the first experimental plots from 10 years ago. That should burn all the dead branches so the place will look nice again.

For those who haven't been to our area lately, bark beetles killed 90 to 100 percent (all) of the piñons on Bandelier's lower mesas. The restoration workers do not cut live piñons. However, young trees are sprouting beneath the dead ones and could become overgrown again. The rangers have to allow periodic fires to maintain a healthy woodland.

Lynne and staff have revamped Bandelier's Junior Ranger Program. Now there are four age-related booklets to accommodate families with several children. Each age group gets a separate badge; children can earn additional badges as they grow. The booklets are available on the web. Lynne says that school children print out copies at school and then work on them as they ride the bus to the park. The new books are available as download items on Bandelier's website, (Click on For Kids on the left sidebar.)

The Winter 2008 edition of the Bandelier newspaper, The Tuff Times is out now. It is on the Bandelier website. Click on News in the left sidebar. If you prefer, I can mail hard copy to you on request: The photos are MUCH more beautiful on the computer screen. PS. While you are browsing, check out Sally King's gallery of aspen photos on our website, We had fabulous aspen colors this year. Now they are gone and we've had some really welcome snowfalls.

Thank you, dear Friends for supporting us even in these trying financial times. Have a good holiday season despite all the dreary news.

Sincerely, Dorothy Hoard, President, Board of Trustees