Landscapes

Preserving a Piece of US Forest Service History

Posted on: September 9th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Heather L. Bailey

The Alpine Guard Station site on my first morning of work.

The Alpine Guard Station site on my first morning of work.

As a Tennessee Scholar at the 2009 National Preservation Conference in Nashville, we were encouraged to take our experience and education out into the field and become personally involved in historic preservation.  My graduate work involved education and outreach, and my employment after graduation involved preservation planning.  While that framework certainly ensures that historic preservation is possible, I was eager to find an opportunity to have a direct and immediate involvement with historic preservation.

Shortly after moving to Colorado, I learned about Historicorps, a new initiative that grew out of a collaboration with Colorado Preservation, Inc., Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and the United States Forest Service.  Modeled on community service initiatives like the Civilian Conservation Corps and Americorps, volunteers had the opportunity to work on a number of projects that involved hands-on historic preservation.

An exhausted crew enjoying our pre-dinner cocktail hour (the Wisconsin carpenters came well prepared) while our site manager installs final flashing around the ranger station chimney.

An exhausted crew enjoying our pre-dinner cocktail hour (the Wisconsin carpenters came well prepared) while our site manager installs final flashing around the ranger station chimney.

Never one to take the easy route, I volunteered for the week-long commitment to work at the Alpine Guard Station located 11,600 feet up on a mountain in the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forest, roughly between Lake City and Powderhorn, CO.  The volunteers brought tents and campers, stayed on site, drew our water from a well, and gathered around a campfire at the end of each work day.

The ranger station (1920) and bunk house (1913) were built a century ago so that rangers could check the permits of the sheepherders (of Basque and Spanish descent) who used US Forest Service land to graze their animals.  While the sheep industry was prominent in the Western Mountain Region in the early twentieth century, this location has remained vacant for decades.  The only residents were an enormous population of rats inside the buildings, and ground squirrels outside.  Our work was to repair and stabilize the buildings, with minimal modifications to allow the cabins to be adaptively used as seasonal rentals.

Staff and volunteers gathered at the end of the week to commemorate our experience with a group picture.

Staff and volunteers gathered at the end of the week to commemorate our experience with a group picture.

Prior to my arrival, the staff and volunteer crews had already completed considerable work on the barn and bunk house (including rat clean up), installed a pit toilet and shed for the solar array accouterments, and installed the new pump well.  The crew of volunteer expert carpenters from Wisconsin took up numerous tasks inside the buildings, and the rest of us took on re-shingling the roof on the ranger station, among other things.

I learned that laying cedar shingles (pre-treated to be fire resistant) is truly an art form and that precision matters (particularly after a helper who showed up for two days quickly laid down a number of rows, bragging about his speed, and leaving us with a few noticeably wavy rows to correct). I also learned that the nail gun (powered by our onsite generator) was a lot more fun when I was seventeen and re-shingling my parents’ roof; thus, I opted to use a regular hammer most of the time.  But, hey, I could claim that I was being authentic in my craftsmanship.  I also realized that the heaviest thing I lifted on a regular basis doing preservation planning was my computer mouse.

The volunteer opportunity with Historicorps was inspirational and invigorating.  It brought full circle my work in the field by doing hands-on preservation rather than just making it possible for others to do preservation.  I’ll always be able to go back to that ranger station and know that this place stands in part because of the physical work we did on this historic treasure.

Heather L. Bailey is a State and National Register Historian for History Colorado.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

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Final Plan Means Less Oil and Gas Traffic in Nine Mile Canyon

Posted on: August 3rd, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ti Hays

Released last week, the final plan for natural gas drilling in Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon ultimately means less oil and gas traffic.

Last Friday, the Bureau of Land Management released its final plan for a controversial natural gas project near Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon. This is the same plan that, when proposed in 2008, was criticized by many – including the National Trust for Historic Preservation – for its anticipated impacts on the canyon’s world-renown collection of rock art.

However, the final plan departs dramatically from the 2008 proposal in ways that are beneficial to the cultural resources both in the canyon and on the nearby West Tavaputs Plateau. First, the scope of the project has been reduced dramatically. The Bill Barrett Corporation will drill over 150 fewer wells on the plateau than originally proposed – 626 rather than over 800. This means less than one-fourth as many new roads will be built. And because the Bill Barrett Corporation has agreed to broaden its use of “directional drilling” – a practice that utilizes a single well pad for multiple wells – there will be over 75% fewer well pads. Collectively, these commitments will reduce the project’s area of long-term disturbance from 1,864 acres to 685 acres.

Second, the Bill Barrett Corporation has agreed to change how it will conduct business on the ground. Major access roads on the plateau will now be gated, thus making it more difficult for vandals and looters to reach archaeological sites nestled in the remote canyons of the Tavaputs. The final plan also restricts drilling activity within the Desolation Canyon National Historic Landmark during the height of the recreation season. This means boaters on the Green River will continue to experience Desolation Canyon much as John Wesley Powell did during his historic journey of 1869, which the National Historic Landmark designation honors.

Credit for the revised plan belongs largely to a surprising duo: the Bill Barrett Corporation and its historic foil, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. On more than one occasion, these two groups have clashed over oil and gas proposals in the Tavaputs region, oftentimes over the question of whether areas that possess “wilderness” values should or should not be developed. However, the two sides were able to put aside their differences to reach the terms now reflected in the final plan that allow development to proceed but with higher regard for the cultural and natural values of the Tavaputs.

As for Nine Mile, the final plan ultimately means less oil and gas traffic in the canyon. This is a good thing for the rock art, especially when considered with the programmatic agreement signed by the Bill Barrett Corporation, the Bureau of Land Management, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Trust, and others in February. This agreement requires the Bill Barrett Corporation and the Bureau of Land Management to implement a broad dust control and mitigation program in the canyon.

Of course, the impacts of this project on the canyon cannot entirely be avoided, even with the very laudable changes to the plan and the measures set forth in the programmatic agreement. However, thanks to the efforts of all of the groups that have advocated so tirelessly for the canyon, it is in a much better position today than it was two years ago when the project was first proposed.

Ti Hays is public lands counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Post updated August 20, 2010.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Mark Twain National Forest’s Fuchs House Restored Thanks to Unusual Partnership

Posted on: June 10th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Jennifer Sandy

Exterior of Fuchs House, 2004 (Photo: KC Olsen)

Exterior of Fuchs House, 2004 (Photo: KC Olsen)

When I first saw the Fuchs House more than four years ago, its potential for a getaway retreat seemed obvious. Though vacant and abandoned, the beautiful stone building was in remarkably good condition, and its location overlooking a small mill house and pond with the Mark Twain National Forest as a backdrop was ideal. With staff from the Forest and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), I walked through the empty house and imagined visitors to the forest settling in for a cozy evening before the fireplace after having spent the day exploring southeast Missouri's natural and cultural heritage.

It turns out I wasn't the only one with that dream. When the Mark Twain National Forest and the Heritage Stewardship Group (HSG) sent out an advertisement for creative re-use proposals for several surplus properties including the Fuchs House, a team from Rolla, Missouri, came back with an unusual proposal: 16 teams, each led by skilled professionals in the construction trade, would rehab the house at no cost to the forest, in exchange for use of the property for two weeks each year.

Volunteers building screen frames for windows on May 31 (Photo: Nick Barrack)

Volunteers building screen frames for windows on May 31 (Photo: Nick Barrack)

This is a great deal for both the volunteers and the forest, which recognized the Fuchs House's historic significance but did not have the funds to rehab it. HSG, a Forest Service Enterprise Team created to help the agency manage and protect its valuable cultural resources, worked closely with the volunteers during the proposal and planning stages. Forest and SHPO staff will oversee the rehab work to ensure that it meets federal standards, and each volunteer team will have the benefit of two weeks every year to enjoy the Mark Twain's amenities. The house will also be available for rental a few weeks annually to help cover ongoing maintenance costs.

When historic resources in the Mark Twain National Forest were listed on America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2007, the future of the Fuchs House and other forest properties was very uncertain.  Thanks to the willingness of the forest to seek new partners, the 1939 house built from local stone will become an attraction instead of a liability. Projects like this are exactly what a new Presidential initiative, America's Great Outdoors, has in mind. America's Great Outdoors is designed to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors, and the National Trust is urging people to join the conversation. The restoration of the Fuchs House attests to the power of partnerships to save historic resources on America's public lands.

Jennifer Sandy is a program officer in the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Written by Rebecca Schwendler, Ph.D.

On April 17th, 2010, this innovative video was honored as one of the top four films out of 65 entered into the Society for American Archaeology’s 7.5 Minute Film Fest. Created by staff from the Anasazi Heritage Center and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, with financial support from the Colorado Historical Society and the Bureau of Land Management, the film presents multiple Native American perspectives on appropriately visiting and appreciating archaeological sites.

Recognizing a good thing when we saw it, we first blogged about this great video in July 2009. Since then many of you have watched it, shared it and posted links to it on your own websites. Thank you, and keep spreading the word and being good stewards of archaeological sites! We’ll keep the video on our Public Lands site, where you can find additional films about visiting and preserving amazing cultural resources on our federal public lands.

The messages common to all of these films are that prehistoric archaeological sites—including impressive Pueblo structures, graceful rock art and informative surface artifact scatters—are the traces left by Native American people hundreds and thousands of years ago. Many modern Native Americans feel close to the people who left these remains, because those people were their biological or spiritual ancestors. Each new generation helps to keep its cultural history and wisdom alive by continuing to visit, honor and even use the places that were important to those who came before.

Likewise, many historical archaeological sites—including beloved family homesteads, sprawling ranches, precariously situated mines and migratory herder camps—are the remains of the homes and activities of the ancestors of modern Euro-Americans. These sites are memorials and links to the hard work, innovation and creativity of our own forebears. If you look closely at the remains, you’ll likely see many objects still in use today!

When you visit any kind of archaeological site, think of the people who came before you. Respect the traces of their lives and stories. And keep your eyes, minds and hearts open (but your hands to yourself!) when you embark on adventures through our public lands.

Rebecca Schwendler, Ph.D., is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s public lands advocate. She is stationed in the Mountains/Plains Office.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Historic and Cultural Resources in America's Great Outdoors

Posted on: May 3rd, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Barbara Pahl

Painted Hand Pueblo in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Cortez, Colorado.

Painted Hand Pueblo in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Cortez, Colorado.

Last month, I participated in the President's Conference on America's Great Outdoors, modeled after one held by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. Roughly 600 people were invited to participate in this day-long event. Attendees came from all parts of the country, and represented government agencies and advocacy groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to Defenders of Wildlife. The whole conference was pulled together in about two weeks so to get this kind of diverse crowd suggests someone in the federal government has a heck of a rolodex.

America’s Great Outdoors will become the blueprint for this administration’s conservation agenda, and is expected to include strategies for more public land protection through new National Parks and units of the National Landscape Conservation System, more protection for farm and ranch land, and more urban parks. The lead federal agencies are the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House Office on Environmental Quality, with participation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Army Corps of Engineers. Most people attending the conference seemed thrilled to see these federal agencies all pledged to work together, and it was also encouraging that the President took time to come and make remarks.

While most of the agenda at this time is vague, there is one overriding principal – to get more young people out into the great outdoors, whether it is their city park or a national park. Four specific goals mentioned during remarks made by Secretaries Tom Vilsack and Ken Salazar were:

  • Take care of our national heritage of parks and historic sites,
  • help farmers and ranchers save their land,
  • get kids outside, and
  • create a new generation of community parks.

Why should we – historic preservationists and the National Trust – be involved? While the President mentioned historic and cultural resources in his remarks and the memo he signed includes our resources, the conversation was dominated by natural resource protection. The last question Secretary Salazar asked his panel was how historic and cultural resources play a role. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson talked about heritage tourism and Bill Cronon (Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin) noted that human stories have always been present on the landscape, but that was about it. Clearly, there is room for more conversation, and we need to be at the table, looking for opportunities to advance our public lands, rural heritage, and urban agendas.

We all have an opportunity to share our message at the upcoming listening sessions on America’s Great Outdoors that will be held across the country between now and the middle of September. If you cannot attend one, share a story about an historic place on the America’s Great Outdoors website, www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors Help us make a great idea even better. Tell the President that historic places matter and need to be at the table!

Barbara Pahl is the director of the Mountains/Plains Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.