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Heinrich bill would make Bandelier a national park

SANTA FE — Bandelier National Monument would become New Mexico’s second national park under legislation that U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich plans to put before Congress.

Heinrich, D-NM, made the announcement at Bandelier Wednesday afternoon with the support of tribal leaders and other officials from around northern New Mexico.

“When I talk to people about what makes New Mexico so unique, it always comes back to our breathtaking scenery, our deep and complex history, and our unique cultures,” Heinrich said. “Bandelier National Monument encapsulates each of these in unrivaled ways.”

Hikers use a traditional ladder to access ancient cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument. Legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich would designate Bandelier a national park. (AP PHOTO)

The centerpiece of the current monument’s 33,000 acres is Frijoles Canyon, featuring cliff dwellings and ceremonial kivas built by Ancestral Pueblo people.

Santa Clara Pueblo Gov. Michael Chavarria said Bandelier is “a place of ongoing spiritual significance and activities for our people.”

“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,” said Chavarria.

The proposal would break off 4,000 acres of the monument’s far northwest section as Bandelier National Preserve, which would be opened up to hunting. The preserve would be operated “consistent with” the national park with the exception of its wild game animals, which would be managed under the hunting program at the adjacent Valles Caldera National Preserve,

National monuments are created by presidential decree — Woodrow Wilson designated Bandelier in 1916 — while Congress alone has authority to designate national parks. Carlsbad Caverns is the only other national park in New Mexico.

Heinrich’s written announcement noted that President Donald Trump two years ago signed an executive order to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, opening up prospects for oil and gas drilling and mining. Heinrich’s legislation would permanently prohibit drilling and other mineral and geothermal development within park boundaries. A president can’t unilaterally change the boundaries of a national park.

Heinrichs bill also would establish a tribal advisory commission, require that “traditional knowledge'” be integrated into land management planning and permanently safeguard tribes’ religious rights and practices in Bandelier.

A recent study by Montana-based Headwaters Economics found that redesignating Bandelier as a national park result in between $2.1 million and $2.5 million in new spending in the area, 29 to 36 new jobs, and between $917,000 and $1.1 million in labor income.