In this communication I will cover a few elements (Cultural (Historic) Landscapes; Cooperative Management with Tribe; Archeological Resources; Ethnographic Resources; Bat Pole and Other Art) of the Saline Valley Warm Springs Management Plan/EIS in the hopes of unraveling some of the nuances of the alternatives and developing a position statement that might help guide SPA members toward making constructive comments with a unified voice. I want to qualify this communication by saying that these are my personal thoughts as a 34-year member of the Saline community, and do not reflect an official SPA position. As SPA works toward crafting a position paper, your comments and feedback on these discussions are a valuable asset that will allow SPA to speak for you!
This is the last of the listed elements, though I have skipped the Stewardship elements, which I will discuss exclusively tomorrow. That will bring us to the end of this set of discussions on the EIS elements and alternatives, wherein we will craft a position paper based upon your comments and feedback. I would like to thank those of you who have responded to these requests that allow us to represent your views.
Once again, the full set of elements and alternatives along with opportunity to comment can be found at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=297&projectID=39438&documentID=56823 and I am including a PDF file of the alternatives as an attachment to this email.
As I understand it, a cultural landscape refers to the actual physical landscaping that has occurred in an area of the park, such as the landscaping around Scotty's Castle and the Death Valley Inn and Furnace Creek. While many aspects of the improvements at the Warm Springs dates back fifty years and more, it is my understanding that seeking designation of the historic cultural landscape pending Determination of eligibility for National Register of Historic Places ( Minimum Action; Community Engagement; Recreation Management Alternatives) is a two-edged sword, that if pursued and unsuccessful, could hurt more than it might help. If anyone has the energy and expertise to discuss pursuing this alternative, please step up. Otherwise, I would recommend that No Action be supported, and leave well enough alone.
Archeological and Ethnographic Resources appears to me to be very closely interrelated. These also tie in closely with the element detailing Cooperative Management with Tribe. Given the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act (http://www.nps.gov/deva/parkmgmt/tribal_homeland.htm) the Park is pretty well obligated to include the tribe in just about everything, and it can turn into a trump card. The reality is, that members of the tribe have expressed no interest in the area of the springs. Their village was located at Hunter Canyon. There are plenty of archeological sites in the area of the springs, and these should be preserved, but I believe they predate the "modern" Shoshone interests.
On the Management element, No Action is in our best interest.
On Archeological Resources, I personally have no problem supporting any of the alternatives, with exception to the Restoration Alternatives. We should treasure, protect, and preserve archeological sites.
On Ethnographic Resources, I do not believe the Tribe has any more credential than many of the long-time visitors to the springs, and recommend that No Action is in our best interest.
Speaking of archeological resources, how about that bat pole and numerous intaglios (rock art) around the springs? Everyone wants to see the bat pole remain, and that is not in question. When I asked the Chief Ranger about the peace sign on the cinder cone, I was told that is considered historic, and would be allowed to remain. As I read the map, all the new labyrinths and rock art are found within the developed areas, and I am not aware of them extending into the wilderness area. (Granted, I am looking at a poor map in that regard.) It looks like the reasonable alternatives all allow for keeping the bat pole and existing art. No new artwork would be allowed in these alternatives. My two-cents: everyone wants to put their personal stamp on the area of the springs, and we can end up loving the place to death. One also risks disturbing archeological sites by moving all these rocks around. Given these considerations, vote your heart when you make your comments, or let SPA know your feelings and we may take a more definitive stand on this element.
Please remember to give us your feedback as we work toward the Position Paper many of you have asked about. We are continuing to pursue a 30-day extension on the comment period, but must proceed currently on the assumption that such a paper should be drawn up in the next few weeks for member review. If we speak with one voice, our voice will carry further!
Stay tuned, just a bit more to come.