National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Chapter 3 - Summary of Key Stewardship Activities and Accomplishments

Columnar Cactus Habitat at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Columnar Cactus Habitat at Organ Pipe Cactus NM

The list below provides examples of stewardship activities and accomplishments by park staff and partners to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources and values for this and future generations:

Visitor and Resource Protection

  • Daily and sustained law enforcement within a complex border environment
  • One-third of the park is now accessible to visitors, up from 5% previously
  • Provided park-wide training opportunities: implemented operational leadership procedures
  • Provided thousands of hours of protection details in support of diverse monument programs

Visitor Experience

  • Developed new exhibits for the visitor center
  • Expanded outreach programs in Ajo and Why
  • Conducted limited public van tours to Quitobaquito, a unique perennial desert water resource
  • Revised monument newspaper, site bulletins, website, Junior ranger and Desert ranger booklets
  • Management of a diverse and successful Volunteers in Parks program
  • Resource briefs and factsheets on the LCAS learning center website

Resource Management

  • Quitobaquito's spring and pond system maintained a year-round water column in both 2011 and 2012 due to numerous temporary restoration measures providing critical habitat for the endangered Quitobaquito pupfish and other species of conservation concern
  • Endangered Sonoran pronghorn recovery project: captive breeding and release to the wild, supportive recovery infrastructure
  • Sustained abundant population of the endangered lesser long-nosed bat
  • Cross border (Mexico/U.S.) wildlife movement monitoring project
  • Diverse partnerships with tribes, Federal and State agencies, Universities, Mexican counterparts, and NGOs
  • Historic structure preservation field schools have been implemented each year since 2009
  • Mitigated damage to archeological site via removal of historical dam structure
  • Surveyed an estimated 1,000 acres of lands for cultural resources between 2010 and 2011; discovered 12 new sites
  • Tri-national symposium addressing Sonoran Desert natural and cultural resource conservation issues
  • Ecological monitoring program implementation—climate, rodent, reptile, vegetation, border impact monitoring, etc.
  • Completed a comprehensive report on the Organ Pipe Cactus Ecological Monitoring Program—2006
  • Completed the Organ Pipe Cactus Vital Signs Report—2010
  • Abandoned mineral lands restoration and bat gate closures
  • Invasive plant and animal monitoring and treatment programs
  • Completed the legal description for the Organ Pipe Cactus wilderness—2010
  • Development of multiple wilderness workshops designed to educate individuals working within wilderness areas
  • Received regional and national wilderness stewardship award
  • Added two quads to Surficial geology maps
  • New NPS border policy and security protocol development
  • Increased monument support of external research scientist—currently about 30 permittees

Management projects and actions addressing border related activities

  • Supported diverse border infrastructure proposals: vehicle barrier, pedestrian fence, fiberoptic project, high tech surveillance tower system, forward operating base, tactical infrastructure maintenance and repair program, etc.
  • Digitized thousands of miles of unauthorized vehicle routes using remote imagery
  • USGS/NPS multi-year border impacts research project
  • Consolidated multi-agency communications infrastructure on the top of Mt. Ajo
  • Removed numerous abandoned vehicles from within wilderness
  • Restored areas impacted by construction of vehicle barrier, pedestrian fence, and tower network
  • Ongoing multi-year ecological restoration projects designed to mitigate border related impacts
  • Built a new plant nursery to support restoration efforts
  • Built two roads in support of a border security tower network project
  • Frequent mending of fence breaks associated with border activities and addressing related trespass livestock issues
  • Developed a soundscape monitoring program, soundscape mitigation at tower sites
  • Established Horse trailer pullout on highway in support of U.S. Border Patrol operations
  • Implemented comprehensive interagency road signage and mapping program

Facilities Management

  • Diverse remodeling projects which provided needed improvements to park dorms and housing units
  • Replaced failing sewer system
  • Multipurpose building/community center erected in park housing area
  • Upgraded campground buildings with showers
  • Fiber optic project implemented—upgrade of communications infrastructure
  • Chip-sealed all paved roads in park
  • Replaced water line for the campground
  • Ongoing expansion of needed office space to meet new and growing needs

One of the greatest achievements at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in recent years is reopening approximately 52% of the monument to visitors; previously, almost 95% of the monument had been closed to the public. In addition, VRP has provided protection details to allow Maintenance, Interpretive and Resource Management Staff to work in areas of the Park closed to visitor and administrative use the Visitor and Resource Protection Division provides an average of two protection details per pay period. During 2011, VRP staff provided 49 protective details which totaled 768 VRP staff hours. The VRP Division contributed time, money and effort toward the purchase, construction, and outfitting of a new community center in the monument. This center currently houses physical fitness equipment and will have a kitchenette, a lounge, and a ramada for outdoor events in the future.

Installation of all new exhibits in the Visitor Center is another major achievement. The monument expanded outreach programs in the neighboring communities of Ajo and Why, and implemented public van tours to Quitobaquito on a limited basis. The monument developed new visitor bulletins and revised old bulletins, revised the junior ranger program, added information to the website, and produced a newspaper. The volunteer program brings in approximately 100 volunteers each year and has been highly successful in assisting interpretation, facilities and resources staff.

Another noteworthy accomplishment was the construction of a vehicle barrier along the international boundary, which was completed in 2006. Prior to construction, there were long stretches along the international boundary where vehicles crossed freely and continued off-road into wilderness. Today, although there are occasional breaches, the vehicle barrier has stopped the vast majority of illegal cross-boundary vehicle traffic and the project is considered a great success.

In addition, a multi-year research project was designed and implemented to assess the ecological effects of unauthorized vehicular and foot traffic related to illegal border activity. More than 250 plots were established throughout the monument to evaluate soil compaction and plant health as well as to survey for trash and invasive species near trails and vehicle tracks. Data were collected from both impacted and relatively undisturbed areas. With the cooperation of NPS law enforcement and private security, plots were set up throughout OPCNM in a stratified random design, which will allow for a robust analysis of impacts as well as identifying particularly vulnerable soil and vegetation communities. In addition, soil samples taken from OPCNM for lab analyses are being used to characterize soils and provide baseline information on the undisturbed structure of native soils for comparison with field conditions. Analysis with USGS partners is now underway and a final report will be produced in the winter of 2012.

The stabilization of the spring and pond system at Quitobaquito was also an important accomplishment. 2011 was the first time in many years that the pond maintained a deep water column throughout the year. This in turn helped assure the continued survival of a number of species of conservation concern including the Quitobaquito pupfish, and the Sonoyta mud turtle. 2011 also marked the first full year of a multi-year restoration program that is intended to address the diverse and abundant impacts associated with border related activities. This project is documenting impacts and using this information to develop plans for diverse and targeted restoration, education and prevention actions.

The monument's facilities have also been continually upgraded and improved in recent years. Visitor services have been improved by upgrading the campground buildings and showers, replacing the water line to the campground, and chip sealing all paved roads in the park. Park housing units have been improved with upgrades of appliances and furniture in three dorm units. The aforementioned multipurpose/community building was erected. Three new office units are being installed and modified to partially address a critical shortage of administrative and housing space within the park. A failing septic system has been replaced and expanded to accommodate increased use. Communication infrastructure upgrades were also accomplished via the implementation of a large scale fiber optic project. Monument staff have also provided assistance to U.S. Border Patrol by building roads to border security infrastructure, constructing a horse-trailer pullout on Highway 85, consolidating interagency radio equipment on Mount Ajo, and coordinating road maintenance and repair activities. Interagency road signs are also being installed and maintained throughout the monument.

⇑ To Top of Page

Last Updated: September 11, 2014 Contact Webmaster