Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stonewall on Petroglyph pact leaves monument at risk

ALBUQUERQUE — The five-year Cooperative Management Agreement governing the Petroglyph National Monument lapsed last week with no successor pact in place, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which has pushed for strengthened safeguards for the monument’s irreplaceable troves of rock art. This weekend also marks a gathering of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, an event preceded by a major cleanup drive on one of the most imperiled sections of Petroglyph National Monument, two-thirds of which is on city-owned land.

Previously, the City of Albuquerque refused to allow National Park Service (NPS) rangers to patrol or enforce Park Service rules on City lands. As a result, Petroglyph lacks both consistent law enforcement coverage and management standards for protecting the Monument’s estimated 22,000 petroglyphs. Surrounded by an urban area, the Monument is vulnerable to scars from graffiti and off-roading as well as illegal dumping. In addition, ancient rock art has been increasingly targeted by thieves and vandals.

At the same time, the 2013 International Rock Art Congress opens this Saturday through Memorial Day in Albuquerque. One of the main sponsors, the American Rock Art Research Association, is hosting a pre-conference cleanup May 25th at the downstream end of Piedras Marcadas Arroyo near Golf Course Road. The entire Piedras Marcadas Canyon with over 3,000 petroglyphs has suffered under lax City management standards which could be remedied by a new joint pact.

“This international gathering underlines Petroglyph as a global treasure at a time it is most endangered by political squabbling,” said Daniel Patterson, Ecologist and Southwest Director of PEER, which has pressed both sides to improve the prior agreement. “Petroglyph deserves world-class protection that transcends the parochial interests of local officials.”

The National Park Service claims it has offered ranger patrols only to be spurned by the City even as local fiscal cutbacks have further limited services the City can provide. In addition, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) obtained a Congressional Research Service legal opinion concluding that “NPS has authority to enforce laws and regulations” on city-owned monument lands.

By its terms, the 5-year Cooperative Management Agreement expired on May 16th – five years from the final executing signature back in 2008. In the absence of an effective agreement the impasse over monument management deepens and may widen from days to weeks to months. Any new agreement would be subject to public review and comment as required by the National Environmental Policy Act but no draft has emerged to start that process. Officials from both the City and NPS have yet to announce any plans for a new agreement.

“As it stands now, Petroglyph National Monument has entered the twilight zone,” Patterson added. “It should be a priority for both parties to a draft an agreement consistent with Sen. Udall's Congressional Research opinion for full public review in the very near future.”

PEER has created an on-line petition urging that Petroglyph be managed up to national standards so that all sections of the Monument are safe and accessible to visitors.

Click for full news release with supporting documents, photos, etc.

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