For the Sake of Salt: A Landscape-Level Management Approach for the Saline Valley Salt Tram

Purpose: The intent of this thesis is to propose a collaborative landscape level management strategy for the Saline Valley Salt Tram (SVST). This unique aerial tramway was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1974 and was the first tramway to traverse an entire mountain range. With the passing of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, this historically significant site was placed within three separate federal land managing agencies jurisdictions: Death Valley National Park (DVNP), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Ridgecrest Field Office, and BLM Bishop Field Office. Due to this, this structure has been managed with three distinct perspectives. The goal of this study is to utilize the SVST as an example for promoting holistic landscape level preservation for cultural resources that traverse borders. Methods: A review of available literature, past and present management plans, applicable legislation, and archival material was conducted in order to create a framework for conceptualizing the current state of the Saline Valley Salt Tram. In addition, the western slope of the project area was examined as a case study for comprehensive landscape management. A pedestrian survey was conducted and two other phases of historic manipulation of the landscape were discovered: a cluster of charcoal reduction sites that predate the SVST, and the modern interactions via a cherry-stemmed four-wheel drive road that acts as an access road into the Inyo Mountain Wilderness. Each of these three human interactions with the landscape were recorded and compiled onto Geospatial Inform System (GIS) Map. Findings: Discussions with employees of DVNP, BLM Ridgecrest Field Office, and BLM Bishop Field Office highlighted both similarities and differences in each agency’s belief regarding management of a NRHP site that sits within a designated wilderness. By focusing on the western slope for the case study, a pattern in natural and human disturbances was noted amongst SVST structures. Conclusions: The management dilemma surrounding the SVST stems directly from the restructuring of borders that placed the SVST across three agencies dominion and wilderness designations that were placed on land that has an extensive history of human manipulation. Acknowledging these factors, alongside reshaping how the public defines wilderness, are the first steps in unifying management. Recently, the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2019 has passed which redefines borders between the National Park Service and BLM while designating large swathes of wilderness across southern California. Therefore, establishing the possibility of potential for fragmentation of a cultural resource.