Issue 27 - Summer 1999



Saline Valley Showdown

As we mentioned in the yellow "ALERT" fliers that we sent you last
month, there is a move afoot within the Department of the Interior to
establish what is being called "The Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Homeland "
in and around the new Death Valley National Park. This proposal would
give the Timbisha tribe  unprecedented influence in the management of
some 300,000 acres of our newest National Park. That area would include
our beloved Saline Warm Springs. The proposal seems to be related to a
recently discovered June 1996 Department of the Interior, Bureau of
Reclamation Water Report, "Timbisha Shoshone Trust Lands", by a Dennis
E. Watt, where in appendix 1, area #5, Economic Development, it states
"Develop hot springs facilities in Saline Valley for both tourists &
Timbisha people to use (educational, cultural, ceremonial, and sale of
traditional Timbisha Arts & Crafts..etc). SPA was never made aware of
this report, and only recently discovered it on our own.
Obviously, SPA is opposed to the Saline Warm Springs area being
included in this "co-managed" land. Tribal leaders have publicly
offended us and our use of the Springs. They have openly called us
"evil" and "disrespectful". We can't help but believe that allowing the
Timbisha tribe to have any co- management authority over the Saline Warm
Springs would adversely affect our continued use and enjoyment of this
natural treasure.

Originally, the deadline for sending your comments was June 15th,
barely three weeks after we first found out about the proposal! Thanks
in part to your letters, e-mails, and phone calls, the public comment
deadline on the Timbisha Homeland Trust proposal has been extended until
July 15. There is still time to make your feelings known on this far
reaching proposition. MANY THANKS to those of you who have made comments
to the National Park Service and related agencies regarding this issue.
For those who have not yet written, please remember to do something for
the land you love, or it may not be yours to enjoy in the future. With
about 2000 names on our mailing list, it IS within our means to generate
far more letters of concern on this issue than there are members of the
Timbisha tribe (less than 300). We have over 100 letters so far.  This
will be a powerful statement. This is not a trivial issue. Write a
Express that this land is just as sacred and ceremonial to you as to
the members of an ethnic group whose presence we've never seen at the
springs. We owe it to our own loved ones whose ashes are scattered upon
the ground of the land we have cared for, for so long.
Mention that the NPS must not satisfy the interests of a small group of
American citizens while sacrificing the interests of the public as a
whole. Mention that Parks are Federal reservations.  That is, parks are
Federal lands that have been set aside for a specific purpose or
purposes.  By giving the Timbisha co-management authority over 300,000
acres of Death Valley, the distinction between a park and an Indian
reservation is blurred. Point out that there is no documented Timbisha
use of the Warm Springs, other than as a hunting ground.
In addition, you might mention that SPA was left entirely out of the
process of preparing this draft proposal, even though the Warm Springs
community was the best represented group at all the public meetings on
the General Management Plan. No mention of the Timbisha Homeland
proposal was made at any of the DEVA Management Plan public scoping
meetings, nor in the resulting 300 page draft DEIS/GMP, nor at the
public meetings to present it. This plan was not even clearly mentioned
at ANY of the DEVA Advisory Commission meetings, which have ALL been
attended by at least one SPA Board Member.

This was while SPA had been endeavoring, for the past four years, to
cultivate a partnership with DEVA similar to that enjoyed with the BLM
before the Desert Protection Act. As BLM's recently retired California
Desert District Manager, Gerry Hillier, remarked: "It would be fairest
to say that I thought it was a remarkable volunteer effort, and that
government's role was left minimalist, since the volunteer effort took
care of most of the management issues.  It was a remarkable self
governing community.  It wasn't so much "citizen management" as it was a
Finally, try to express in your own words, what it means to you to be a
part of a unique community that has survived for decades without
government interference. Explain how "problems" are addressed and solved
to the benefit of the community without lawyers, elected officials, or
any expense to the taxpayer. This culture may well be unique in America
today, and it's obviously unique within our National Park System. Don't
let them destroy what they don't understand in the name of "Political
On June 8, 1999, SPA wrote Timbisha Chairwoman Pauline Esteves
suggesting the commencement of a dialog to explore these issues in
detail. Unfortunately, as of June 28, 1999, we have received no
Please help us make it clear that we will not just roll over and take
whatever some bureaucrats decide is "right", and then try to impose on

Please, send comments to:

Dick Martin, Superintendent,
Death Valley National Park
PO. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

or e-mail to:

(This is VERY important)
Please send copies of your letters to SPA at:

SAM Merk
2062 Mike's Trail Road
Ridgecrest, CA 93555-7519

or e-mail to:

BLM Public Meeting

While we’ve been concentrating on the Park Service, other federal and state agencies have also participated in drafting the Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Homeland Draft Report, and will have to live with its consequences. The Bureau of Land Management will host a public scoping meeting on the subject on Monday, July 12 from 6 to 9 pm, at the BLM offices at 300 South Richmond, in Ridgecrest. Timbisha tribal representatives are expected to attend. This will provide one last chance before the July 15 deadline to elicit additional information from Tribal and Federal representatives, and to offer your spoken comments. For further information, call the BLM in Ridgecrest at (760) 384-5400.

Fire Pans

One of the primary concerns of the preservationists in the NPS is our habit of camping wherever we want to within the boundaries of the defined "Camping Area". One of their main objections to this long-standing practice is that more and more campfires are built in different places. The rocks used to build the fire rings are permanently blackened with soot, and after the ash blows away, there’s still a pile of charcoal that is scattered by wind, rain, and human and animal activity. In an effort to address these concerns, SPA volunteers have begun an effort to clean up and remove the newest campfire rings that have appeared around both Springs.

By this fall, SPA will furnish several steel fire-pans that anyone is free to use within the designated Camping Area, for building a campfire. The pans are 24 inches in

diameter, and four to five inches deep, so they’re plenty big enough for almost any firewood. They will be available at both Palm and Lower Warm Springs.

The next day, or after your fire is out, simply dump the remaining ash and charcoal into a trash bag or box and haul it home.

While this may seem like a hassle at first, It’s not really that hard, and it could help postpone the call for designated, numbered campsites.

The Continuing MOU Effort

Amid the turmoil of the Timbisha Tribal Homeland issue, SPA has received a draft MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) from the NPS. While an MOU is not considered a binding legal document, it would at least represent the first time the NPS has ever officially recognized SPA in writing. It’s a small step perhaps, but a step in the right direction nevertheless.

As this issue goes to press, the Board has not had time to fully consider the entire document, which was presented to Dave Bybee and SAM Merk during a meeting with Superintendent Martin on June 21st. This draft is considered "a work in progress", and will no doubt be bounced back and forth several times before we arrive at something that will satisfy both the NPS and SPA.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to report in more detail in the next SOURCE.

Is your address current?

We can't keep you informed unless it is. Over 50 of the recent yellow "Alert" flyers have been returned "unable to forward." Sixty-three of our e-mail alerts have bounced.

Please help us help you make your voice heard in preserving the most remarkable hot spring culture on the planet. Please keep us informed of your current postal address so we don't waste postage. Send your updates to the return address on this newsletter.

If you’re on the internet, and didn't receive the recent e-mail alerts, please send your e-mail address to the SPA Database Administrator at:

"Never send a tree to do an electron’s work"

John "Fred" Haesche II

Fred passed away April 20th at his mother's home in San Carlos CA with his beloved dog Rowdy at his side. A long time visitor to the Palm Spring, many remember Fred with smiles recalling him "singing" with Rowdy as a duet.

The San Diego Union Tribune newspaper mentioned bequests to his memory be sent to SPA. This is a first for SPA and a number of donations have been received.

His family scattered Fred's ashes in the valley in a private gathering.

The Spirit of Volunteerism

Volunteers come in all sizes, shapes and ages, degrees of motivation and commitment, and varying amounts of free time available. They see an opportunity to give something of themselves where they will have fun. They try it by first sticking a toe into the water to see how comfortably warm it may be; by volunteering. The real pay comes from beyond the fun, from the self-satisfaction of contributing to a cause they believe in, and the admiration of their peers for a job well done.

Some will clearly see a need and just step in. Others will simply want to help, but wait for a direction to be defined for them. A good management committee will understand these dynamics as vital to the self perpetuation of the organization into the future.

The Saline Community is fortunate that current political issues have caused some tenured personalities to recently step forth from the shadows to offer the value of

their experience, talent, and wisdom for Saline's future. The power of the internet has enabled the newsletter you have just read to be born in a matter of hours as a true team endeavor; by people contributing their time as free hours when most convenient; AM or PM. Special thanks go to Major Tom Ganner and Kathy Goss.

SPA was first born of Sheri Cosgrove's concern about Senator Cranston's first Desert Protection Act of 1984. Her creation has evolved into a conduit of communication between the community and governing agencies. The 300 letters sent last winter, and again rolling in, are testimony to the success of that evolution. But SPA does not exist in a vacuum. Its strength accrues from alliances built upon mutual trust, both between SPA Board members, and key people within other organizations where close relationships and trust make good sense.

As SPA approaches its 15th birthday and looks to the future, one reality your Board of Directors understands is no individual can do it forever or alone, and it would be unhealthy to try. The prudent course is to encourage new blood to step forward, step by step, so the old guard can communicate how their wisdom has grown from past mistakes and successes.

If you might like to give back to your favorite home-away-from-home, please contact a Board member that you may already know, listed on the front of this newsletter. We have many job opportunities for the new millennium.


For the Spirit of Saline,


Your SPA Board