Blackwell School Poised to Become One of the First National Park Sites Dedicated to Modern Latino History

NPCA Press Release, May 19, 2022

The Blackwell National Historic Site will soon shed light on an often-overlooked injustice in American history and will be an important step forward for including Latino stories at our parks.

Mrs. Bentley’s class at Blackwell in 1956. Photo Courtesy of The Blackwell School Alliance    

Today, the U.S. Senate passed The Blackwell School National Historic Site Act, which would designate a half-acre school campus in West Texas as one of the first national park sites dedicated to Latino history. The Senate made minor changes to the bill, so it will now go back to the House of Representatives for a vote, and the last step remaining is for President Biden to sign it into law.

The National Parks Conservation Association and Blackwell School Alliance are leading a grassroots campaign for a park that will honor the stories of Mexican American students and their families during this nationally significant chapter of history.

Led by Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23) and Filemon Vela (D-TX-34) and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Alex Padilla (D-CA), the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act is a historic bipartisan agreement amid challenging conversations about race across the country.

National Register Listing Photo of School Children

Until the mid-1900s, school systems across the American Southwest segregated Mexican American students from white peers, sending Mexican Americans to separate schools with fewer resources. Nestled in the borderlands town of Marfa, Texas, the Blackwell School is one of the last remaining “Mexican schools,” standing in good condition, where the so-called “separate but equal,” doctrine applied.

Many years after the school closed following integration, a group of Blackwell alumni formed the nonprofit Blackwell School Alliance and saved the property from possible destruction down the line.

NPCA has long been a leader in campaigns to designate national park sites dedicated to diverse history, including the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Stonewall National Monument. At NPCA, we believe we must expand our national parks system to tell the full American story, which includes stories like the Blackwell School’s and beyond.

Statement of Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for The National Parks Conservation Association:

“There are so many chapters of American history that have gone unseen, unheard, and unacknowledged. Despite the difficult history connected to the Blackwell School, today is a day of joy and celebration that these students’ stories will soon be told by our country’s greatest storytellers at the National Park Service. The students of Blackwell deserve no less.

“Despite the enormous impact Latino people have had on our country and continue to have today, their stories are underrepresented in our national parks. The Blackwell National Historic Site will soon shed light on an often-overlooked injustice in American history and will be an important step forward for including Latino stories at our parks.

“The National Parks Conservation Association stands with the students of Blackwell and we are proud of the years of teamwork that have led to today’s unanimous consent Senate passage. We are grateful to Senator John Cornyn, Senator Alex Padilla, Representative Tony Gonzales, and members of Congress across the country for recognizing that the unique history at this little one-room schoolhouse deserves protection in perpetuity.”

Statement of Gretel Enck, President of the Blackwell School Alliance:

We used to think of the Blackwell School, rightly, as an important local and personal story. Yet the more research we did and the more people outside Marfa learned about it, the more we came to understand how much critical American history is represented inside these old adobe walls. We have worked a long time to advocate for this special place, and now we have the opportunity, and the obligation, to share these stories with a wider audience. Alumni deserve to have their stories known, and today that goal is one step closer to achieved.

“An even bigger goal is that the success of the Blackwell School will open the door for other untold American Hispanic and Latino histories to gain attention and resources. The National Park Service— through its Historic Sites, Historic Landmarks Program, and Heritage Areas — provides unparalleled leadership in telling the complicated history of our country. We look forward to final House passage and the President’s signature.”

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About the Blackwell School Alliance: The Blackwell School Alliance and its partners preserve and restore historic resources associated with the Blackwell School; interpret and commemorate the era of segregated Hispanic education; and serve the Marfa, Texas, community culturally, historically, and educationally for the benefit of all Marfa residents and visitors, now and into the future. For more information, visit www.theblackwellschool.org.

NPCA: 102 years old and still delivering much-needed support for the National Parks

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is the only independent, nonpartisan membership organization devoted exclusively to advocacy on behalf of the National Parks System. Its mission is “to protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations.” Founded in 1919 as the National Parks Association, the organization was designed to be a citizen’s watchdog for the National Park Service (NPS) created in 1916. Among the founders of NPA was Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service — Wikipedia

I renewed my membership today as I have for more years than I can remember. No doubt there are a few gaps in my membership due to lean years, but I support the parks and the support groups that speak on the parks’ behalf. The parks are simultaneously underfunded and loved to death by massive numbers of visitors that are unsustainable.

I often wonder why more people aren’t members of NPCA. Glacier Park alone has more visitors every year and I think that if even half of those joined the NPCA, we might solve more of the problems facing the national park system.

The NPCA’s mission, as stated on its website, is “We’re protecting and enhancing America’s National Park System for present and future generations.” Since I’ve been following the problems of the parks since the 1960s, I’m rather cynical about park visitors, many of whom could probably care less about future generations as long as they got their visit checked off the bucket list before the system fell apart.

The organization has a lot on its plate. Here are the issues it tracks:

Air
Climate Change
Energy
History and Culture
Landscapes
Park Funding
Visitor Experience
Water
Wildlife

My feeling is that all of these are at risk and have been for years, long before climate change was included in NPCA’s concerns. On the NPCA’s advocacy page, there’s a simple message: “Learn about the challenges and opportunities facing national parks, then use your voice to advocate on their behalf.”

For the most part, we’re missing those voices.

Malcolm

“The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande” are set in Glacier National Park.

Facing the Climate Catastrophe

On August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its assessment of the state of the climate — the panel’s grimmest yet. The window to stop some of the worst effects of the climate crisis is rapidly closing, the report found, and world leaders must act with urgency to prevent catastrophe.

The report, prepared by more than 200 top scientists around the globe and approved by the 195 UN member states, is the first of three expected this year to inform emission reduction commitments at the 26th annual international summit known as the Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) this November in Glasgow, Scotland.

Photo: Sunset over St. Mary Lake at Glacier National Park. The namesake glaciers at this park are rapidly melting as a result of climate change. In 1850, the region had 150 glaciers. There are now just 25 left. Photo © Kan1234/Dreamstime.

Source: Facing the Climate Catastrophe: What We Do Now Matters · National Parks Conservation Association

Do most people worry about climate change? Apparently more people are taking it seriously as shown, in part, by their willingness to switch to products that they think are better for the environment.

In this article, the NPCA suggests four critical areas we can focus on:

  • Reducing emissions from cars.
  • Retiring power plants to clear skies of haze pollution.
  • Reducing methane, one of the most potent climate-warming emissions, from oil and gas development.
  • Securing critical climate provisions in the federal budget.

Climate change is such a huge issue, it often seems outside the power of the individual to address. Articles like this one help us narrow down target areas where we can focus our efforts.

Malcolm

National Parks Boast a $34 Billion Boom as Budget Cuts Loom

from the National Parks and Conservation Association

Record-visitation pumps billions into national, local economies in 2016

WASHINGTON – National park visitation generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy in 2016, a $2.9 billion increase from 2015, and supported 318,000 jobs, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today. The number reflects the significant, positive economic impact national park visitors have on gateway communities, including sales, lodging and jobs, as well as the impact on the national economy as a whole.

Read the rest of the press release here.

Acadia National Park in Maine. © Coleong/Dreamstime.

It’s widely known that our national parks are having infrastructure problems because funding has been so insufficient that keeping roads, bridges, structures, trails, and emergency and communications systems up to date is impossible.

Like infrastructure needs outside the park system, allocating money to roads and bridges isn’t sexy in spite of the fact that we see periodic reports about the number of bridges, dams, locks, levees and other vital transportation and safety structures and systems that are below par throughout the country.

Writing for SmartAsset in January 2016, Amelia Josephson said that, “According to the NPS, the nearly $3 billion appropriated for the NPS budget falls short of what’s needed. In May 2015 the park service said it had delayed $11.5 billion in necessary maintenance in 2014 due to budget shortfall. Although national parks charge fees, these fees are not nearly enough to fund the national park system, which is why the NPS depends so heavily on Congress’ budget appropriations.”

A small fraction of this money can be made up by friends of the parks organizations that raise money and fund discrete projects within the parks they’re associated with that would otherwise fall outside NPS’ spending. But this is like bailing a lake with a thimble. It does help, but the overall park’s system continues to fall behind.

Cheating the parks isn’t just about nature, protected areas, and outdoor recreation. It impacts the local economies as well–generally those within 60 miles of a park. As the NPCA press release notes, park visitation doesn’t simply bring money to the park, but also to gas stations, camp grounds, stores, restaurants and hotels in the surrounding area. Those who visit national parks tend to stray longer than random tourists who make brief stops at roadside attractions and less-well-known tourist destinations. Of course, park service employee salaries add to the “new money” brought into the regional economy from the park.

Cheating the parks and other public lands is cheating the future, and not just the environment on which we all depend even if we never go out and visit it. It reduces the value of the country in terms of assets and makes the ultimate loss of parks, or parts of parks, more and more likely in the future. We can pretend it isn’t happening just as many pretend there’s no such thing as global warming. That’s the head-in-the-sand approach. We can do better.

Malcolm

 

Budget Falls Short for Parks; Glacier Plowing Facilitated by Donation

from the National Parks and Conservation Association

NPCAlogoBackground: The release of President Obama’s 2014 budget April 10 proposes that the National Park Service budget would increase by $56.6 million over FY12, but the increase is partially offset by programmatic decreases to park base operations. The proposal includes important investments but also provides a reduction of nearly a hundred staff in park operations.

“The National Park Service is experiencing deep impacts from the sequester and other continued reductions. This year will be the most challenging in some time for national park superintendents who will have fewer rangers and smaller budgets to manage each park from Yellowstone to Acadia. Funding the operations of the National Park Service needs to be more of a priority than it has been to date. We’re pleased that the President recognizes the need to reverse the mindless sequester, but it will take more than that recognition to address the reality facing national parks.”

“The sequester has already cut more than $130 million from the National Park Service budget, forcing places like Yellowstone, Acadia, Independence Hall, and Cape Cod National Seashore to delay seasonal openings, close visitor centers, picnic areas, and campgrounds, and eliminate ranger positions that are critical to protecting endangered species and historic buildings, as well as greeting park visitors and school groups. Further cuts will only impair the national park experience.

“National parks draw international tourists and are economic engines that support more than $30budget billion in spending and more than a quarter million jobs. Yet they suffer from an annual operating shortfall exceeding half a billion dollars and a maintenance backlog of many billions more. And in today’s dollars, the Park Service budget has now declined by more than 20 percent over the last decade.

“We need the President and Congress to make sure America’s national parks are open and well-staffed and nothing in this budget provides us with any confidence that will happen. Our national parks are not just great destinations to visit, they are our national treasures that should be treated with honor. They drive the economy for many rural and urban communities. The severe under-funding of our most prized places needs to be reversed. We hope to work with the President and Congress as they debate how to repair a failed federal budgeting process to better address the true causes of the nation’s deficits and better serve our national parks and the American people.”

Glacier National Park

NPS Glacier Photo
NPS Glacier Photo

According to NPS Glacier, “The park’s base budget of approximately $13.5 million was reduced by $682,000. The park must absorb that cut in the remaining months of this fiscal year that ends September 30.”

Due to Congress’ failure to adequately support the parks, budgets were already far short of basic infrastructure and operating requirements. Cutting funding further through a failure of the federal budgetary process adds insult to injury. Inasmuch as jobs and tourism income in areas with parks benefit greatly, any reduction of park hours, season dates, and attractions impacts more than the parks themselves.

Fortunately, a donation to NPS Glacier by the Glacier National Park Conservancy has kept budget cuts from delaying the spring plowing of the Going to the Sun Road. However, visitors will see impacts elsewhere:

  • Delayed trail access and decreased trail maintenance,
  • Reduction in native plant restoration,
  • Reduced shoulder-season access to campgrounds and visitor centers,
  • Decrease in entrance station hours,
  • Less maintenance work on park facilities, roads and utility systems,
  • Limited and delayed emergency response outside the core season,
  • Decreased educational programming and ranger-led activities,
  • Less back-country volunteer coordination,
  • Reduction of revenue from impacted campgrounds, and
  • Reduced partner financial aid assisting interpretive programs resulting from loss of revenue of partner bookstores in park.

What a pity.

Malcolm

Summit Sets Course for Protecting America’s National Parks, Connecting to People

from the National Parks and Conservation Association

Historic gathering of leading national park champions shapes outline for supporting National Park Service’s mission for 2016 centennial and the century to follow

Recognizing a growing need to unite the advocates, partners and supporters of national parks in advance of the upcoming 2016 National Park Service (NPS) centennial and beyond, the most diverse group of national park leaders ever convened gathered last week in Washington, D.C. to attend America’s Summit on National Parks. The Summit was a first of its kind event established in coordination with the NPS through a partnership of the National Park Foundation (NPF), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA).

The two-day Summit, which took place January 24-26, was inspired by NPS’ recent Call to Action report [PDF download] and was designed to create unifying, clear objectives that will ensure the protection, enhancement, and support America’s iconic landmarks for centuries to come. The Summit inspired thought-provoking dialogue on some of the greatest challenges and opportunities facing national parks currently. The Summit produced a working document outlining the participants’ shared “Statement of Principles” and “Action Items” to ensure that the seeds of progress begun from the passionate and inspired conversations will take root, leading to growth, change, increased accessibility and ultimate strengthening of the national park system and national park programs. The Summit drew prominent members of Congress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, major political advisors and top conservation, tourism and communication leaders.

In a joint statement regarding the Summit, Tom Kiernan, president of NPCA; Neil Mulholland, president of NPF; and Derrick Crandall, counselor of NPHA said:

“Our parks need to evolve with us. The passionate leaders and advocates who attended this Summit are committed to a united vision for the national parks to thrive in the next century. We understand that appropriate funding, diverse outreach, natural resource protection and conservation, updated facilities, and adequate staff are necessary to make sure our national parks remain attractive, healthy places for people to visit and enjoy. And, though there are many challenges, we are confident that this newly unified focus, support and dedication by the park community will make these goals obtainable.”

Yosemite - Call to Action Report

Among the most notable directives coming out of the Summit were to increase outreach to youth and other diverse populations; to make units within the NPS system more representative of the diverse makeup of the nation; to use technology, such as social media, smart phone applications, video games and other electronic technologies to attract visitors and improve park experiences; to highlight healthy food and opportunities for safe, active fun during park visits; to increase public awareness of the 2016 centennial; to create an endowment to provide the NPS with secure funding for the future; to encourage supporters and lovers of national parks to become more engaged with their members of Congress and other decision makers, and to grow the base of support for national parks, particularly among the health, education and tourism communities.

Leading up to the 2016 centennial, the current stewards of our national parks will take up the gauntlet thrown by this Summit. Through their work, these original goals will be enhanced and the shared vision will become action.

For more information about the Call to Action, click here.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three novels set in Glacier National Park, “Sarabande,” “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey,” and “The Sun Singer.”

New Logo and Blog for the National Parks and Conservation Association

When I joined the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) in the 1960s after working in and taking trips to many of the parks, the group had a oval-chaped logo with the silhouettes of three bears. That logo was around for 50 years.

Now NPCA has decided it’s time for a change: “After about a year and a half of research, focus-group testing, surveys, and outreach, NPCA finally unveiled a modernized logo yesterday.” Naturally, some people wanted to keep the old logo. I support the changes, the logic of which is explained here.

Even before setting three of my novels in Glacier National Park, I was a “friend” of the parks. Since I live in the southeast, I’ve been to Smoky Mountain National Park more than any other. When I joined the NPCA, the Internet as we now know it did not exist. I depended on the print magazines from the Sierra Club and the NPCA for parks and conservation information.

Now, I’m happy that with the logo, the NPCA has also updated its online presence with a new blog called the Park Advocate. As NPCA suggested to members in this morning’s e-mail message, “Check out the blog for regular news on the parks, read about NPCA’s latest work in the field, enjoy photos and videos from around the country, and share your ideas and opinions on issues affecting our national parks.”

What a great way to keep up! Even if you’re not at NPCA member, the blog and its RSS feed will help you keep up with the latest news about the National Parks.  If you’re a Facebook member, you’ll find the NPCA is there, too.

Malcolm

If you’re a fan of Montana’s Glacier National Park and/or are planning a visit to Many Glacier Hotel, you might enjoy my e-book about the history of Swiftcurrent Valley: “Bears, Where They Fought.”

The 15-page booklet is available on your Kindle for only 99 cents. (Click on the cover to learn more.) You’ll also find it included in Vanilla Heart Publishing’s anthology of fiction, nonfiction and poetry “Nature’s Gifts.”

What the hell is Florida Power Thinking?

While the heading of this post is mine, the story comes from the National Parks and Conservation Association:

Everglades National Park…home to the largest wilderness area east of the Rockies; home to the largest protected mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere; and home to 68 federally threatened and endangered species. 

Does this sound like a place for giant towers puncturing the landscape with multiple power lines stretching as far as the eye can see? We don’t think so either.

The National Park Service is currently accepting public comment on a proposal that would allow Florida Power and Light (FPL) to build massive transmission lines through Everglades National Park. The use is completely incompatible with the designated purpose of the Everglades, and it is therefore necessary that FPL find an alternative route. Taxpayers are the rightful owners of America’s national parks, like the Everglades. Conveying a track of Everglades National Park–also a U.S. World Heritage Site–to a for-profit utility for a transmission lines corridor poses a threat to the Everglades ecosystem and conflicts with long-term restoration efforts. This is definitely not the way to treat a World Heritage Site.

Take Action: Submit your comments to Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball and tell him that Everglades and all national parks are owned by the American people and are not for power lines.

Growing up in Florida, I learned that “swamps” were often simply tolerated as junk land that needed to be fixed in some way. In the panhandle, Tate’s Hell swamp was logged to death while the natural flow of the water was dammed up with the logging roads. In south Florida, the Everglades is constantly under threat due to water and air quality issues, invasive species and the sprawl of nearby cities. Power lines through the swamp are another one of the many insults.

Let’s try to stop them from being built.

See also, a new threat to the Grand Canyon in House Funding Bill Reverses Policy to Protect Grand Canyon

Malcolm

Learn more about the historic milestones of Glacier National Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley, site of Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Campground, for only 99 cents on Kindle. The e-book is also available for 99 cents in multiple formats on Smashwords.

This short introduction to Glacier National Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley will delight, entertain, and offer a glimpse into the dramatic history of the most beautiful place on Earth… or so many visitors claim!

Reflections on Good News for Our National Parks

More often than not, the daily news brings us more bad news about threats to the environment and Congress’ continued threats to reduce National Parks funding even more than they have already. Next week, Congress will decide whether to vote for a “Dirty Water Bill” that would undo much of the rivers, lakes and watersheds progress implemented with the 1972 Clean Water Act.

I have been a member of the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) ever since the days when George Hartzog was the high-impact director of the National Park Service between 1964 and 1972. There’s an indepth feature about Hartzog in the current issue of National Parks.

The greatest threat to the environment, is much larger than the issue of a Dirty Water Bill or an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: it is, quite simply, the fact we have to keep fighting to save and protect something that ought to be a top priority for everyone.

While it’s almost criminal that we–as a society–should have to fight so long and at such great expense to create good news for our environment and our National Parks, such news brings hope and a chance to reflect upon what kind of world we would have if the good news occurred so often, it was no longer newsworthy.

Reading the first 14 pages of the Summer 2011 issue of National Parks was a true pleasure:

  • Once again, the Gettysburg National Military Park has been spared from the disruption and sprawl of a casino on its doorstep. According to the NPCA, opposition to the casino by prominent historians, NPCA members and supporters, and a 30,000-signature peition helped persuade the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to do the right thing.
  • Kaiser Ventures has been trying since 1988 to create the largest landfill in the United States on land adjactent to Joshua Tree National Park. Had the company been allowed to do so, 20,000 tons of trash per day would have been dumped next to a fragile ecosystem. In 2009, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said “no,” and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Kaiser. Until Kaiser finds a new way to build the dump, Joshua Tree has much to celebrate on its 75th anniversary.
  • It has taken eleven years for the NPCA, its allies and its lawyers to force the Tennesee Valley Authority to stop polluting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On days when the pollution is at its worst, vistors to the park can see only 17 miles. On a clear day, visitors can see 77 miles. With the settlemen agreement, there will be many more clear days. The TVA will  reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 69% and sulfur dioxide emissions by 67% by phasing out 18 coal-fired units and by installing modern pollution controls on 36 other units by 2018.

I look forward to the time when clear victories will bring us the kind of clear days that allow us to see forever-–insofar as clean air and clean water are concerned. Until then, every success brings infinite relfections on what is possible.

You May Also Like: Beauty and Heartbreak in Arroyo Pescadero – The Whittier, California city council wants to drill for oil in this environmentally sensitive arroyo east of Los Angeles.

Malcolm

99 cents

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released Bears; Where they Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley, a glimpse at the dramatic history of the most beautiful place on Earth. A Natural Wonderland… Amazing Animals… Early Pioneers…Native Peoples… A Great Flood… Kinnickinnick… Adventures… The Great Northern Railway.

“Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and will make you truly immortal. — John Muir, “Our National Parks,” 1901

Joshua Tree National Park Kicks-off Restoration Projects

from NPCA

Photo by Alex E. Proimos
Twentynine Palms, Calif. – In partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water has announced the first jointly supported, volunteer-based restoration project at the iconic Joshua Tree National Park to help revitalize and restore the park, leading up to its 75th Anniversary.

Breaking ground this weekend, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water employees will team-up with park officials and community volunteers to restore two highly travelled areas of the park – the Hidden Valley Trailhead and trails leading out to the popular rock climbing area, Houser Buttress.

Once a refuge for cattle rustlers and mountain lions, Hidden Valley is now one of the park’s most popular rock climbing, picnicking and hiking destinations, and it’s in critical need of conservation and restoration efforts.

Among the group of volunteers are Boys and Girls clubs from Yucca Valley and Desert Hot Springs and marines from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center located in Twentynine Palms, CA.

Volunteers will perform critical work to prevent soil erosion and destruction around the trailhead, which has created a slipping hazard to hikers. Volunteers will also eliminate “social trails” created when visitors walk off the designated trail-areas. Additionally, participants will plant native vegetation, lay vertical mulching to curtail erosion, remove wooden ties that line the trail and replace them with rocks to restore the area, and dig postholes for fencing to secure the site. Finally, old trail signage will be replaced with new ones that better describe trails for hikers and help preserve the desert’s natural landscape.

The Park

One hundred and forty miles east of Los Angeles, the 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park features a fragile desert ecosystem. Visitors can explore both “low” and “high” desert landscapes here where the Colorado and the Mojave deserts meet.

Photo by thirteenthbat
Joshua trees are found in the cooler, wetter Mojave in the western portion of the park. Explorer John Fremont reportedly called them “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom.”

A member of the Yucca genus, the fast-growing Joshua trees get their name from 19th century Mormons crossing the Mojave Desert who said the trees’ limbs resembled the outstretched arms raised to the heavens in prayer.

The trees, with their multi-fiber trunks and extensive root systems can survive in the desert for hundreds of years, with some trees living up to a thousand years. Joshua trees bloom in the spring, displaying creamy white flowers to complement the dark green spear-shaped leaves.

Malcolm