Foundation Document



Every unit of the national park system is required to have a formal statement of its core mission that will provide basic guidance for all planning and management decisions—a foundation for planning and management. Increasing emphasis on government accountability and restrained federal spending demand that all stakeholders are aware of the purpose, significance, interpretive themes, fundamental resources and values, and special mandates and administrative commitments of a park unit, as well as the legal and policy requirements for administration and resource protection that factor into management decisions.

A foundation document serves as the underlying guidance for all management and planning decisions for a national park unit. It describes the core mission of the park unit by identifying the purpose, significance, fundamental and important resources and values, interpretive themes, assessment of planning and data needs, special mandates and administrative commitments, and the unit’s setting in the regional context.

As carried forward from the foundational elements of the general management plan completed in 2012 for Hovenweep National Monument, this foundation document can be useful in all aspects of park management to ensure that primary management objectives are accomplished before addressing other factors that are also important, but not directly essential to achieving the park purpose and maintaining its significance. Thus, the foundation document for Hovenweep National Monument is necessary to effectively manage the park over the long term and protect park resources and values that are integral to the purpose and identity of the park unit and to address key issues affecting management.

The park atlas is also a part of the foundation project. It is a geographic information system (GIS) product that can be published as a hard-copy paper atlas and as electronic geospatial data in a Web-mapping environment. The purpose of the park atlas is to support park operations and to facilitate planning decisions as a GIS-based planning support tool. The atlas covers various geographic elements that are important for park management such as natural and cultural resources, visitor use patterns, and facilities. The park atlas establishes the available baseline GIS information for a park that can be used to support future planning activities. The park atlas is available at

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Part 1: Core Components

Foundation documents include the following core elements:

The park purpose is the specific reason(s) for establishing a particular park. A park purpose statement is grounded in a thorough analysis of the legislation (or executive order) and legislative history of the park, and may include information from studies generated prior to the park’s establishment. The purpose statement goes beyond a restatement of the law to clarify assumptions about what the law means in terms specific to the park.

The significance statements express why the resources and values of the park are important enough to justify national park designation. Statements of park significance describe why an area is important within a global, national, regional, and systemwide context. Significance statements are directly linked to the purpose of the park and are verified by data or consensus that reflect the most current scientific or scholarly inquiry and cultural perceptions because the resources and values may have changed since the park was established.

Interpretive themes connect park resources to relevant ideas, meanings, concepts, contexts, beliefs, and values. They support the desired interpretive objective of increasing visitor understanding and appreciation of the significance of park resources. In other words, interpretive themes are the most important messages to be conveyed to the public about the park. Interpretive themes are based on park purpose and significance.

Fundamental resources and values are features, systems, organisms, processes, visitor experiences, scenes, sounds, smells, or other attributes of the park that merit primary consideration during planning and management because they are essential to achieving park purpose and maintaining park significance.

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Brief Description of the Park

Hovenweep National Monument (Hovenweep) consists of six detached units in southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado that protect 13th century pueblo standing towers and villages at canyon head locations. The units range in size from 14 to 400 acres; one unit is surrounded by the Navajo Nation. The towers of Hovenweep were built by ancestral Puebloans, a sedentary farming culture that occupied the Four Corners area from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1300. Similarities in architecture, masonry, and pottery styles indicate that the inhabitants of Hovenweep were closely associated with groups living at Mesa Verde and other nearby sites.

Most of the structures at Hovenweep were built between A.D. 1200 and A.D. 1300. There is a considerable variety of shapes and sizes, including square and circular towers, D-shaped dwellings, and many kivas (Puebloan ceremonial structures, usually circular). Some structures built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

The Hovenweep structures are the best-preserved, best-protected, and most visually striking and accessible examples of 13th century pueblo architecture and community locations within the San Juan River basin. The Goodman Point unit was the first archeological site set aside by the federal government in 1889 and is one of the largest 13th century ancestral pueblo villages in the San Juan River basin. The monument also contains examples of ancient astronomical calendars that mark important seasonal events using architecture, rock art, and sunlight.

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Park Purpose

Purpose statements identify the specific reason for the establishment of a particular park. Purpose statements are crafted through a careful analysis of the enabling legislation and legislative history that influenced the development of Hovenweep National Monument, which was first designated on March 2, 1923 (see appendix A for enabling legislation and subsequent amendments). The purpose statements reinforce the foundation for future park management administration and use decisions. The following are the purpose statements for Hovenweep National Monument:

  • Protect extraordinary examples of prehistoric architecture and the setting in which they are located
  • Protect other features of geological, historical, and scientific interest.
  • Provide opportunities for visitor appreciation and education that leave monument resources unimpaired

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Park Significance

Significance statements express why Hovenweep National Monument resources and values are important enough to merit national park unit designation. Statements of significance describe why an area is important within a global, national, regional, and systemwide context. These statements are linked to the purpose of the park unit, and are supported by data, research, and consensus. Significance statements describe the distinctive nature of the park and inform management decisions, focusing efforts on preserving and protecting the most important resources and values of the park unit.

The following significance statements have been identified for Hovenweep National Monument (please note that these statements are in no particular order):

  • The park contains a high concentration of the best-preserved freestanding towers and related structures in the American Southwest. Located in several canyon head settlements, these remains are excellent representations of ancestral Pueblo communities existing on the Great Sage Plain during the late Pueblo III period.
  • Hovenweep lies in an area that is significant to many cultural groups including Pueblo, Ute, Navajo, and Anglo communities.
  • Hovenweep’s well-preserved archeological sites comprise cultural landscapes that offer exceptional opportunities for research into ancestral Pueblo community life, including the final decades of occupation and depopulation of the region.
  • The park’s extensive materials collection provides important evidence of the ancestral Pueblo culture as well as insights into the ways the people adapted to this demanding environment.
  • The park represents an intact remnant of the Great Sage Plain ecosystem. This harsh desert environment presents survival challenges for both human inhabitants and the natural flora and fauna. Plant and animal species characteristic of this ecosystem are found in most units of Hovenweep.
  • Hovenweep’s perceived remoteness and uninterrupted horizons lend a sense of discovery to visitors’ experiences. The shallow canyons, riparian systems, spring alcoves, and structural remains enable visitors to more easily envision the life of ancestral Pueblo communities and their relationship to the natural environment.

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Interpretive Themes

Interpretive themes are often described as the key stories or concepts that visitors should understand after visiting a park—they define the most important ideas or concepts communicated to visitors about a park unit. Themes are derived from—and should reflect—park purpose, significance, resources, and values. The set of interpretive themes is complete when it provides the structure necessary for park staff to develop opportunities for visitors to explore and relate to all of the park significances and fundamental resources and values.

Interpretive themes are an organizational tool that reveal and clarify meaning, concepts, contexts, and values represented by park resources. Sound themes are accurate and reflect current scholarship and science. They encourage exploration of the context in which events or natural processes occurred and the effects of those events and processes. They go beyond a mere description of the event or process to foster multiple opportunities to experience and consider the park and its resources. Themes help to explain why the history of a park is relevant to people who are unconnected to an event, time, or place.

While themes are important as an organizational tool to guide management decisions, they are not intended for public use. The themes offer park staff guidance on focusing on relevant visitor experience, and what matters to the public is how these themes are represented through park services, media, programming, and facilities.

The following interpretive themes have been identified for Hovenweep National Monument:

  • Oral traditions of the modern day Pueblo people say that Hovenweep is their ancestral village and a stepping-stone in their journey to the sacred center place. The park’s preserved cultural and natural landscape gives physical form to oral traditions of living Pueblo peoples’ creation and migration stories. Since the time of migration, the Hovenweep area has subsequently been a home place to many other people including Utes, Navajos, and eventually Anglo settlers.
  • Standing architecture still present at Hovenweep provides tangible remains of a once-vibrant community. From these remains, we glimpse ancestral Pueblo community life, traditions, and challenges. Reflections on this ancient culture in this undisturbed setting provide an opportunity for modern visitors to relate their lives to those of earlier inhabitants.
  • Ancestral Pueblo society at Hovenweep flourished. Evidence of their architectural and intellectual achievements is seen in the buildings, rock art, and celestial markers that remain today. These elements indicate a culture that was not just surviving but thriving.
  • The Great Sage Plain supports the same wildlife and resources today that past communities relied upon for shelter, food, and clothing. Plants, animals, and people have adapted and thrived on these mesa tops, shallow canyons, riparian systems, and spring alcoves for thousands of years.
  • The human story at Hovenweep has a timeless quality that provokes questions about motivations and worldviews of the ancestral Pueblo people. We must preserve and study these clues to the past to better understand who they were and how they lived.

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Fundamental Resources and Values

Fundamental resources and values are those features, systems, processes, experiences, stories, scenes, sounds, smells, or other attributes determined to warrant primary consideration during planning and management processes because they are critical to achieving the park’s purpose and maintaining its significance.

The preeminent responsibility of park managers is to ensure the conservation and public enjoyment of those qualities that are critical (fundamental) to achieving the park’s purpose and maintaining its significance. These qualities are called the park’s fundamental resources and values (FRVs). Fundamental resources and values are closely related to legislative purpose, and are more specific than significance statements. Fundamental resources and values help focus planning and management on what is truly important about the park. If they are allowed to deteriorate, the park purpose and/or significance could be jeopardized.

This distinction is made to ensure that fundamental resources and values receive specific consideration in park planning processes because of their relationship to the park’s purpose and significance.

The following fundamental resources and values have been identified for Hovenweep National Monument:

  • Cultural resources
    • tower structures
    • archeological sites
    • kivas
    • lithic scatters
    • museum collections
  • Cultural landscapes
    • canyon head communities
    • village sites
  • Natural setting
    • canyons
    • plateaus
    • plains
    • riparian systems – springs and seeps
    • native plant and animal species
    • views and vistas from within the park boundary
    • night skies
    • natural soundscapes

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Part 2: Dynamic Components

Part 2 consists of three components:

  • special mandates and administrative commitments
  • planning issues and concerns
  • planning and data needs

These components may change after this foundation document is published and may need to be updated periodically.


Special Mandates and Administrative Commitments

Many of the management decisions for a park unit are directed or influenced by special mandates and administrative commitments with other federal agencies, state and local governments, utility companies, partnering organizations, and other entities. Special mandates are requirements specific to a park, most often legislative or judicial, that must be fulfilled along with the park purpose. Mandates can be expressed in enabling legislation or in separate legislation following the establishment of the park. They may expand on park purpose or introduce elements unrelated to the purpose of the park. Administrative commitments are, in general, agreements that have been reached through formal, documented processes, often through memoranda of agreement. In this category are such agreements as easements, rights-of-way, arrangements for emergency service response, etc. Special mandates and administrative commitments, in many cases, support a network of partnerships that help fulfill the objectives of the park and facilitate working relationships with other organizations. They are an essential component of managing and planning for Hovenweep National Monument.

  • Memorandum of understanding between U.S. Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service—this agreement ensures that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service continue to enhance efficiencies in each other’s management activities, to coordinate information and outreach efforts, and to foster communications on activities that have the potential to affect the other agency’s management responsibilities.
  • Memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding air quality analyses and mitigation for federal oil and gas decisions analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. This memorandum of understanding provides that air quality will be considered, analyzed, and mitigated through an interagency collaborative process. The memorandum of understanding seeks to safeguard air quality and resources sensitive to air pollution—termed air quality related values (AQRVs)—while recognizing the various missions and mandates of the signatory agencies.
  • Cooperative agreement between the National Park Service and San Juan County, Utah—this agreement is to provide for cooperative management activities and emergency operations in San Juan County, Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, and Hovenweep National Monument.

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Planning Issues and Concerns

Cultural Resources
Management strategies are needed to protect, stabilize, restore, and maintain prehistoric structures, archeological sites, and cultural landscapes associated with the ancestral Pueblo peoples of Hovenweep and the Great Sage Plain ecosystem. This would include mitigating the impacts of erosion and visitor access on these resources. There is a need for additional analysis and documentation of the towers, archeological resources, and surrounding cultural landscape. The plan must also address the adequacy of park boundaries by identifying significant related resources outside the monument boundaries, determining if these resources are related to the monument’s purpose and significance, and evaluating whether adequate protection measures are in place to preserve these resources. The plan must also describe appropriate protocols and methodology for conducting archeological research within the monument and for evaluating and analyzing the remnants of the cultural landscapes. This research and analysis can enhance our understanding of the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people.

Natural Resources
A number of factors pose potential impacts to the monument’s natural resources. Visitor use, climate change, and regional development could adversely affect the resources characteristic of the Great Sage Plain environment. The National Park Service recognizes that the cultural and natural resources of the monument are inextricably linked. Inappropriate management of one can lead to degradation of the other. The general management plan must identify management strategies to preserve natural resources and processes, including night skies, soundscapes, and views. It must also outline appropriate actions to manage and, where feasible, eradicate nonnative species.

Visitor Experience
Canyon of the Ancients National Monument adjoins four of the units of Hovenweep. The resources of both Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients are important to visitor understanding of the larger context of the ancestral Pueblo culture in the Great Sage Plain. Developing closer cooperation on resource protection and interpretation is important to the overall visitor experience at both monuments. The Goodman Point unit is the farthest unit from headquarters and yet is closest to suburban development; it has the greatest potential for increases in unmonitored visitation from the local population. Some researchers have determined that this type of visitation has resulted in cultural site damage. An issue that arose during scoping is the need for expanded interpretive and educational programs to make the public aware of the sensitivity of the monument’s cultural resources and the role they can play in their protection. Another issue that arose during scoping is the need to inform the public of the inherent risks involved in visiting undeveloped areas of the monument.

Hovenweep needs a strategy for dealing with increased visitation at remote units and for coordination with the Bureau of Land Management, tribes, educational and scientific institutions, and friends groups.

Interpretation and Education
Public comments received in the visitor survey highlighted the need for expanded education and interpretive programs that address the broader context of ancestral Pueblo life and culture at Hovenweep and in the Great Sage Plain ecosystem. The plan would lay the foundation for regional visitor use and education plans and for preservation programs in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (Anasazi Heritage Center, Monticello Field Office, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument); U.S. Forest Service; Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum; Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; and other state, local, and private agencies and organizations. These programs can be of enormous benefit in informing visitors of the extraordinary importance of Hovenweep and the role visitors can play in resource protection and preservation. This would be an important component of a park interpretation plan.

Monument Operations
Most of the facilities at Hovenweep, including the visitor center, campground, housing, and roads, are adequate. However, the monument does not have an adequate maintenance facility. Maintenance operations currently are based from a 380-square-foot metal maintenance shop, two 10-foot by 10-foot pump houses, and a small storage building. The garages for monument housing are currently being used for maintenance storage. These facilities do not provide adequate fire suppression and other safety equipment, vehicle and material storage, water and power utilities, or meet other operational requirements. This plan must address the need for proper maintenance facilities for the monument.

Cooperative Management
Resource protection and law enforcement at the monument are limited by existing staffing levels, which will not change in the foreseeable future. Cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and other federal, state, and local agencies would strengthen law enforcement coverage for resource protection, visitor safety, and monitoring. The plan would establish the framework for developing or strengthening cooperative agreements with other law enforcement and resource protection agencies. This would include coordinating transportation and access issues with state and county officials, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Navajo Nation (the Cajon unit). The plan would also identify needs to conduct cross-training of staff for interdisciplinary duties. (See appendix A for a list of existing cooperative agreements.)

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Planning and Data Needs

With the completion of the general management plan for Hovenweep National Monument, it was concluded that other, more detailed studies and plans would be needed before specific actions could be implemented. As required, environmental compliance (National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and other relevant laws and policies) and public involvement would be included. Those additional studies and plans as outlined in the general management plan are listed below. The planning and study needs of Hovenweep National Monument are not limited to this list.

Items considered of the utmost importance were identified as “high priority,” and other items identified but not rising to the level of high priority were listed as either “medium” or “low” priority projects. Priority levels were determined by park staff in 2013. This information will be used by staff from the park and NPS Intermountain Regional Office to determine priorities and consider the future funding needs of the park.

  • Archeological surveys for all remaining units of the national monument (high)
  • Historic structures reports for the stabilization, preservation, or restoration of any prehistoric structures (high)
  • Cultural landscape reports for all six units of the national monument (high)
  • A resource stewardship plan / strategy for the national monument (high)
  • Administrative history (medium)

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Analysis of Fundamental Resources and Values

The analysis of fundamental resources and values articulates the importance of each fundamental resource and value; current condition, potential threats, and the related issues that require consideration in planning and management. Included in the analysis is the identification of relevant laws and NPS policies specific to the preservation and management of the resources at the park. This section of the foundation document will require periodic reviews and updates as monitoring and research improves our understanding of each fundamental resource and value.


The Foundation Document contains additional analysis and appendices. To request more of this information, email us.

Last updated: January 3, 2018

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