ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The words from the park superintendent seemed to jump off the page at Ike Eastvold, an environmentalist who leads groups through Petroglyph National Monument.
"Tour content must not include
political or inflammatory information directed at either the
National Park Service, the city of Albuquerque, or any other
entity. Issues concerning Petroglyph National Monument may of
course be addressed, but participants should be allowed to form
their own opinions ... pursuant to National Park Service policy,
tour content will be audited and approved by the superintendent or
Eastvold, who leads hikes
into the area for the Sierra Club and Friends of the Albuquerque
Petroglyphs, read this language in his application for a
special-use permit application in October. He found it
"I needed to find out what my
rights were, so I checked with other park units, other permit
holders and people belonging to the Park Service," he says. "They
were almost as shocked as I was." Eastvold believes the permit's
conditions violate his First Amendment rights protecting free
speech. "It appears to be a clumsy attempt to silence criticism of
(Park Superintendent Steve) Whitesell's management."
Perhaps feeling the heat from Eastvold's
investigation, Whitesell recently rescinded the permit application.
He says Eastvold "raised some valid concerns about the
application," but denies the language was targeted at the
environmentalist. "We would apply this (application language) to
anyone leading tours in the monument."
Regardless of his motivation, Whitesell, critics
say, has not yet changed his management philosophy for the
monument, a 7,000-acre home of ancient Indian rock art that follows
an escarpment on Albuquerque's western edge.
Park Service officials put the finishing touches on a draft
management plan for the monument, Eastvold and his allies fear
Superintendent Whitesell will allow horseback riders, mountain
bikers and vandals to overun the lava-rock
A road proposed by city officials that
would cut through the monument and connect booming subdivisions has
been the monument's most visible issue (HCN, 11/1/93). But the more
pervasive question is whether Petroglyph will be a spiritual and
natural sanctuary amid urbanity or a recreational outlet for many
The monument is already showing signs of
intense human use. Vandals have damaged its largest and most
pristine section, Rinconada Canyon, by spray painting and gouging
graffiti over the rocks at a cave near the canyon's mouth. Glass
from broken bottles is also a common sight. Eastvold says much of
the vandalism has occurred in the past year.
Eastvold says he and Pueblo Indian leaders, who
regard the monument as a sacred site, alerted the Park Service to
the increasing vandalism two years ago. Until this fall, however,
anyone could enter the monument, anywhere, anytime. The agency has
since closed the entrance to Rinconada Canyon from dusk to dawn.
The rest of the park is still open and rangers are hard to find.
Eastvold calls it "too little, too late."
problematic for opponents is a proposed general management plan
that calls for eight miles of multiuse trails for horseback riding
and mountain biking. Environmentalists and Pueblo leaders say the
trails will increase access to the most remote and sensitive areas
of the monument.
"Horseback riding, biking and
hiking are going on right now," counters Whitesell. "The plan
proposes a significant reduction in trails for those uses. We will
close and rehabilitate some trails."
American opposition continues to be a problem for the Park Service,
which hopes to issue a draft plan for public review in early 1995.
The agency has enlisted the help of the Greater Recreational Trails
Committee, a group formed by city ordinance in 1990, to advise on a
recreational trails plan for the monument.
trails committee, which includes mountain bikers and horseback
riders, seems to have played a major role in defining the
recreational part of the management plan. Minutes of its meetings
show Park Service staffer Larry Beal in close contact with group
members - soliciting their views, supplying them with copies of
correspondence with Native Americans and asking them to meet with
the Native American community to discuss the
Last spring, all 19 Indian Pueblos near
Albuquerque wrote Whitesell to express their strong objections to
horse and bike trails. They asked the Park Service to manage the
area in a reverent manner as a place for worship and prayer. They
did agree to accommodate pedestrian trails.
August and September, Whitesell wrote and called William Weakhee,
executive director of the five Sandoval Indian Pueblos. Whitesell
proposed a monitoring and permitting program for horse and bicycle
users, with particularly intense monitoring in the sacred areas. He
asked Weakhee to work out the details of such a program with Pueblo
leaders, including specifying the number of rangers they thought
should be added to monument staff as monitors.
Pueblo leaders have not responded to these
requests. Weakhee says: "We don't think it is appropriate for us to
be forced into a negotiating position. We made our position very
clear earlier this year: Our sacred sites are as sacrosanct as any
Whitesell says adequate
monitoring and a permit system should assuage Pueblo leaders'
concerns over vulnerable archaeological sites. The real problem, he
says, is inadequate staffing. "I'd like to see the people on all
sides come together to help get the resources this monument needs."
In addition to its cultural riches, Petroglyph
harbors an array of wildlife, including shrub habitat that supports
more than 100 bird species, says Forest Service ornithologist Hart
Schwarz. The mesa top in the monument is especially critical
habitat, Schwarz adds, because it buffers the west side of
Albuquerque, which is sprouting
Schwarz recently wrote Whitesell
urging him to consider the monument's natural resources in drafting
the management plan. Biking and horse trails would "severely affect
nesting raptors, particularly ferruginous hawks, which nest on the
ground," he wrote. To date, he has received no
To get on the mailing list for the
Petroglyph National Monument's general management plan, or to
comment, write Superintendent, Petroglyph National Monument, 123
4th Street, Albuquerque, NM 87102. To contact Friends of the
Albuquerque Petroglyphs, write 2920 Carlisle, NE, Albuquerque, NM
The writer lives in the
mountains outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.