Petroglyph Monument Imperiled by Jurisdictional Impasse
Ancient Rock Art in No-Man-Zones Vulnerable to Vandalism and Degradation
Albuquerque — The Petroglyph National Monument is a major asset for the City of Albuquerque and New Mexico but its rich trove of cultural and natural resources is threatened by the inability of the City and the National Park Service (NPS) to cooperatively manage the two-thirds of the monument that is City-owned land, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, there are no consistent management standards or patrols protecting the invaluable rock art for which the Monument was created.
Petroglyph National Monument curves 17 miles along Albuquerque’s western horizon, containing an estimated 22,000 petroglyphs. Its urban proximity is both a charm and a curse, as its rock art, wildlife and open land are especially susceptible to human impacts, ranging from vandalism to illegal dumping. Some of the City’s areas still bear extensive off-road racing scars.
Under a five-year Cooperative Management Agreement, NPS and the City specify the delegation of their respective responsibilities for the monument. The City, however, refuses to allow NPS rangers to patrol or enforce Park Service rules on City lands, which constitute the bulk of the monument. Due to City service cutbacks, most of the Petroglyph is left unpatrolled. In a July 25, 2011 letter to PEER, NPS Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels stated –
“However, the NPS currently has no agreement with the City of Albuquerque that holistically authorizes NPS to enforce the entirety of 36 CFR Part 2 on lands owned by the city….We would welcome such an agreement and we have, in the past, proposed such an agreement with the City, but the City has not acceded to this proposal.”
The 2008 Cooperative Management Agreement must be renewed by May 2013. Today PEER is launching a citizen petition and national campaign to persuade Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry to allow NPS to provide full monument protection in the upcoming cooperative management pact.
“People want Petroglyph better protected now,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest Director of PEER. “We call on Mayor Berry and NPS to listen and look at these problems and become stronger partners to restore and guard the monument.”
In addition to the law enforcement problems, monument assets are at risk from neglect and accumulated debris. For example, some petroglyph concentrations are inaccessible and even dangerous to visitors due to fire-magnifying tumbleweed accumulations. Construction waste left dumped over petroglyphs also endangers visitor access in Piedras Marcadas Arroyo.
“It is a disgrace that ancient rock art is obscured by both years of debris and last weekend’s vandalism,” Patterson added. “Petroglyph is not just a regional but a national treasure which deserves the same protections as other national parks.”