The 1800s and westward expansion

Written by R and E D Smith We owe this tremendous story — the inspiration behind the human story of our West — to Andrew Jackson, president from 1829-1835, and his commander-in-chief Thomas Jefferson,…

The 1800s and westward expansion

Written by R and E D Smith

We owe this tremendous story — the inspiration behind the human story of our West — to Andrew Jackson, president from 1829-1835, and his commander-in-chief Thomas Jefferson, among others.

Chaco Canyon, a hotbed of both Manichean civil war and Native American innovation, is located between New Mexico and Arizona near the Sonoran Desert. Jackson made frequent visits to the region and sought to promote its importance as a guidepost to what he called the “political and economic advances of the first quarter of the century.”

But with earlier cultural designations and logging closures, the Chaco had become a difficult subject for politicians to swallow. In 1866, President John Tyler attempted to pass legislation with local government support, but it was blocked in Congress. Finally, it was cleared in 1873, but still the Chaco had become a bit of a political football.

And that was the way the Chaco remained for decades after that. The moment it became a national park, however, it became an idea whose time had come.

The present period of renewed government interest in Chaco Canyon came in part because both Harry Truman and Richard Nixon were interested in Jackson-Jefferson legacy conservation efforts. But it also drew a lot of attention from the science community because of advances in geologic mapping. The idea came from scientists, Congress and industry about how Chaco could better be managed for the next century.

With help from two groups that spend a lot of time listening to public speech: Make it There and Fast Track Park Foundation, both are working to develop and study specific conservation initiatives. The idea has been endorsed by the Parks and Conservation Trust, the National Park Service, the 912,000-member US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Center and the National Parks Conservation Association. One of the key findings from the research and community engagement process is that we need to better manage energy production around our fragile ecosystems.

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