On Rims & Ridges: The Los Alamos Area since 1880


The Pajarito Plateau in northern New Mexico encompasses the Bandelier National Monument and the atomic city of Los Alamos. On Rims and Ridges throws into stark relief what happens when native cultures and Euro-American commercial interests interact in such a remote area with limited resources. The demands of citizens and institutions have created a form of environmental gridlock more often associated with Manhattan Island than with the semiurban West, writes Hal K. Rothman. Before the coming of the railroad in 1880 the Pajarito Plateau was open, capable of supporting the small-scale agriculture of the Pueblo Indians and seasonal Hispanic pobladores. In the half-century after the arrival of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, the area was gradually claimed by competing special interest groups: the original inhabitants, archaeologists and anthropologists, homesteaders, ranchers, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Rothman describes howthese groups with diverse purposes - economic, cultural, aesthetic, spiritual - staked out every inch of land, often clashing over it. Today all of them maintain a presence on the plateau, and any land management decision elicits a response from each. Too often political clout determines the direction of socioeconomic growth. The long-term effects of federal land policy and technology on expanding population in shrinking space, on the transformation of culture and the environment, are seen clearly in Rothman's study of the Los Alamos area - and the implications for the future of much of the rest of the American West are chilling.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Lincoln, NE
Publication year:
  • 1992


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