Bandelier Conservation Corps –
Past, Present, and Future
The Las Conchas Fire began on June 26, 2011 just west of the Bandelier National Monument. In its first 13 hours it burned over 44,000 acres or almost an acre a second. Over the next weeks it grew to over 156,000 acres and became the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. All the major watersheds within Bandelier were heavily impacted by the fire including Frijoles Canyon, where the visitor center and most visited archeological sites are located. Over 75% of Frijoles Canyon was within the fire’s footprint, much of it burned with high severity.
After the fire with no vegetation on the ground, flooding became an issue. Heavy rains in the Jemez Mountains lead to widespread flooding in the entire east facing canyons including Frijoles Canyon. The impact on Bandelier National Monument from floods and fire was catastrophic. In 2013, Bandelier National Monument continues to rebuild.
During the summer of 2013, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is working with Bandelier National Monument through a summer crew. This crew is assisting in park reconstruction efforts. This crew was drawn from local youth who had an ancestral connection to the land and a deep understanding of Bandelier’s place in New Mexico’s heritage.
RMYC and its Bandelier Conservation Corpsmembers work under the direction of a seasoned crew supervisor, Justin Clemens, to restore Bandelier’s infrastructure. At elevations averaging 7,000′, the10 weeks of summer work is being accomplished as a trail and flood prevention / mitigation crew. The work uses a four day on project and two and half day off work schedule. During the evenings where the crew is camping out at the site, training and personal development activities occur. Summer park projects include removal of silt deposits in ruins, replacing sandbags to enhance flood season protection, trailhead kiosk repair and trail reconstruction. During their trail experience, crewmembers will receive specialized training on the principles of designated wilderness areas, high altitude trail construction and restoration, tool safety, recreation management, along with sessions focused on personal and employment skills. Sessions will include resume writing, career exploration and post-secondary options. At the end of their project, they will earn an AmeriCorps Education award valued at $1,175.
This project offers meaningful employment during the summer to youth age 16-25 years old while restoring trails within Bandelier for future generations. Restoration of designated trails within the Bandelier will benefit both the surrounding community’s youth and the National Monument. Bandelier National Monument has suffered significant losses in visits to the monument since the fire. In 2007, over 220,000 visits were recorded in the monument. While after the fire in 2012, only 150,289 people visited the monument. Restoration of Bandelier’s fragile historical sites and ruins will begin to signal the rebirth of the area. These visitor recreational dollars are critical to the northern New Mexico economy providing GRT revenues. Youth involved in the project will reconnect with the land and have the opportunity to earn, not only wages but a scholarship for post-secondary education.