Montezuma Castle
National Monument
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Chapter 6
Managing the Natural Resources of the Monument

"Montezuma Castle National Monument is on the brink of many disasters, which, in aggregate, would destroy the setting of the two sites. . . . Here, as elsewhere, we have had the illusion that the white picket fence around our boundaries was enough. Obviously, it is not enough. Unless we learn, from this situation and similar ones affecting many other areas . . . we will continue to face disaster at the last momentas the finger curls around the trigger."

William E. Brown and Charles P. Clapper Jr., "Environmental Management Problems at Montezuma Castle and Well," November 1969

The significant population growth experienced in the Verde Valley and across the Southwest in the years after World War II prompted the National Park Service to develop the facilities at Montezuma Castle National Monument to keep up with the demands associated with the continually increasing levels of visitation. However, this pattern of regional growth also contributed to the alteration of the landscape encompassing and surrounding the monument units over time. These changes caused NPS officials to pay closer attention to the natural and cultural resources at the monument and to the effects of regional and site developments. Although still primarily concerned with accommodating recreational tourism and public enjoyment, the agency devoted increasing energy to understanding and protecting the prehistoric, historic, and natural resources at Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. The modern resource management efforts at the monument reflect advances in the fields of anthropology and the natural sciences as well as organizational and ideological changes within the Park Service in the postwar years. This chapter and chapter 7 summarize the various research studies, resource protection projects, and preservation initiatives undertaken at the monument during this period and consider these efforts within the contexts of regional, professional, and agency changes.

The modern resource management activities of the National Park Service follow a long line of previous human interactions with the environment of the Verde Valley. For thousands of years, different groups of people were drawn to the region and its central feature, the Verde River. The availability of water, the natural lushness of the land, and the temperate climate make the Verde Valley an ideal location for settlement. The topographic and environmental diversity further contribute to the qualities of this area bounded by the Colorado Plateau and mountains to the north and by the Sonoran Desert region to the south. The abundant resources of the valley attracted a variety of human occupations and activities in prehistoric and historic times. The interactions of these groups with the regional environment were guided both by the quantity and types of natural resources present in the area as well as by the cultural perceptions, values, and attitudes that informed each particular group's vision and use of the landscape. The current form of the landscape is thus the product of the natural and human processes at play in the Verde Valley over time. As manager of a portion of this landscape, the National Park Service attempted to protect the existing natural and cultural resources at the monument while fostering an understanding of the complex historical processes that have shaped them. However, the agency's efforts themselves represent yet another set of human interactions with the environment of the Verde Valley. To make sense of this multifaceted terrain managed by the Park Service, it is helpful to consider both the factors that formed the regional landscape prior to the agency's activities as well as the perceptions, values, and attitudes that have informed them.

The impacts made on the Verde River over time reflect the changes in the regional landscape caused by various human activities. Between a.d. 600 and a.d. 1425, the Hohokam and Sinagua peoples settled the Middle Verde drainage and made extensive use of the water resources of the region. During this span of time, the native hunting/gathering population developed a strong irrigation-based horticultural economy, drawing on technological advances adopted from the Hohokam to the south and the Sinagua to the north. The river that they knew, however, differed significantly from the Verde River of today. Recent archeological research suggests that characteristics of the prehistoric river included a braided channel, a high water table, stable flow, dense riparian vegetation, the presence of beaver and muskrats, numerous marshes, and areas of stationary water. Historical descriptions of the Verde River by Spanish explorers and later by European American trappers and pioneers indicate that many of these natural features persisted well into the nineteenth century. [1]

But beginning in the 1860s, the intensive European American settlement of the region ushered in an era of significant change in the Verde Valley. The land uses and exploitation of resources that followed the European American occupation took a heavy toll on the river and dramatically altered the physical environment of the valley in a relatively short time. Today the Verde River is a channelized, fast-moving stream with only one remaining marsh and devoid of the rich vegetation that once graced its course. The striking alteration of the regional landscape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries resulted from the variety and intensity of the activities pursued by European American settlersactivities informed by the perceptions, values, and attitudes that people brought with them and projected onto the landscape. Although the Sinagua and Hohokam people also left a mark on the Verde Valley by their use of the land, water, and natural resources of the area, their impact was modest compared to that brought about by the activities of the European Americans. The ideologies influencing the interactions of the prehistoric and modern inhabitants of the Verde Valley with their environments differ markedly and lend insight into their respective impacts on the Verde Valley. In the concluding chapter of the collection Vanishing River: Landscapes and Lives of the Lower Verde Valley, Stephanie Whittlesey points out the distinct relationships with place these two groups had: "Whereas aboriginal peoples had created a landscape heavy with meaning and rich with stories, bound up with heaven as much as with earth, Americans viewed the land in terms of profit." [2] In contrast to the balanced and respectful ways of the prehistoric indigenous people who preceded them, the European Americans treated the resources of the Verde Valley as commodities to be exploited, controlled, and managed for personal gain. An overview of the behaviors that resulted from this attitude help to explain the transformation of the landscape and the "vanishing" of the Verde River since the late nineteenth century.

The first European American settlers in the valley began farming soon after the establishment of their community at the confluence of the Verde River and Clear Creek in 1865. They quickly set about clearing the surrounding land, digging an irrigation ditch, and planting crops. By 1880, eleven significant irrigation ditches had been built to divert water from the Verde River, including one constructed by the Yavapai, who were forcibly relocated onto the Rio Verde Reservation near Camp Verde. Agriculture continues to be an important economic activity in the region. The Cottonwood Ditch, which was completed in 1878, remains the primary irrigation feature in the valley, and today farmers divert a significant amount of Verde surface water for their crops through this canal and others. Over the years, modern farming and irrigation activities left their imprint on the Verde River and contributed to environmental changes such as erosion and the alteration of the river channel. [3] Unlike the prehistoric inhabitants who used the river primarily for agricultural purposes, however, European American settlers engaged in a variety of other activities that further taxed the resources of the Verde River and impacted the landscape.

The exploitation of the rich mineral resources of the region was one such activity European American settlers pursued that had a dramatic effect on the Verde Valley landscape. Although parties of Spanish explorers likely visited mines located near the present-day town of Jerome in the late sixteenth century, it was not until after the establishment of a European American settlement in the area almost three centuries later that mining activities were actively pursued. Large-scale mining operations began after Montana industrial giant William Clark purchased the fledgling United Verde Copper Company in 1888. In order to realize the potential of the Verde Valley's mineral resources, Clark financed the development of significant mining and smelting facilities in the town of Jerome and built a railroad line to transport the products to market. The prosperity of the mines led to the expansion of the United Verde operations; the company bought ranches and water rights along the Verde River where the town of Clarkdale was later established in 1912. This planned community provided housing for the mineworkers and served as the location of the new company smelter that began production in 1915. [4] Copper-mining activities continued in the Jerome area on and off until the closure of the mines and smelter in 1953. In addition to the obvious changes to the land resulting from the development of underground and open-pit mines, copper smelters, and the area communities, mining-related activities had other serious impacts on the Verde Valley landscape. The most striking of these changes were deforestation and the reduction of vegetation by fuelwood cutting, the severe air pollution from the smelters, the usage of water resources in the smelting process, and the creation of large piles of mine tailings near the river (figure 34). The industries that supported the mining operations also affected the regional environment; the railroads, power plant, and area residences and businesses consumed their share of natural resources over the years and contributed to the patterns of change in the valley. [5]

Figure 34. Environmental impact of mining in the Jerome area. The new Clarkdale smelter, c. 1917. (Photo from Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott.)

Perhaps the activity undertaken by European American settlers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that had the most destructive effect on the natural resources of the Verde Valley was grazing. Begun in the region in the 1870s, livestock raising quickly became a popular and profitable occupation. As the number of cattle and sheep in the valley peaked toward the end of the nineteenth century, the effects of overgrazing became apparent (figure 35). During a visit to the Verde Valley in 1896, Cosmos Mindeleff, an archeologist with the Bureau of American Ethnology, commented on this situation: "Within the last few years the character of the river and of the country adjacent to it has materially changed. . . . This change is the direct result of the recent stocking of the country with cattle. More cattle have been brought into this country than in its natural state it will support." [6] The intense grazing in the region resulted in the destruction of native grasses, deforestation and the loss of large stands of riparian vegetation, and the erosion of large quantities of topsoil from surface runoff. Although the intensity of grazing lessened by the early twentieth century, overgrazing remains a problem in some areas. More importantly, however, the earlier grazing practices continued to have long-term effects on the Verde Valley landscape. [7]

Figure 35. Verde Crossing, showing the intensity of grazing in the Verde Valley, 19 May 1901. Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives Department, Northern Arizona University (NAU.PH660.2.19).

The deforestation and erosion that resulted from grazing and other historic activities of European American settlers during the late nineteenth century exacerbated the damage caused by the periodic flooding of the Verde River. Repeated flood events led to the deepening of the river channel, the expansion of the floodplain, and the destruction of property, crops, and irrigation features along the Verde watershed. The wreckage caused by flood events over the years, combined with the increasing demand for water for domestic and agricultural uses in the growing Salt River Valley, prompted calls for flood protection and water storage developments on the lower Verde River. Completed in 1939 and 1946 respectively, Bartlett Dam and Horseshoe Dam were designed to help provide for the downstream water needs and offer protection from flood events. [8] A later proposal to build the Orme dam and reservoir on the Fort McDowell Reservation for additional flood control and storage of Central Arizona Project water for the Salt River Valley attracted much attention, but was never implemented.

The manipulation of the regional water resources, as evinced by the construction and management of dams and reservoirs, reflects the exertion of influence by the emerging Phoenix metropolitan area. As this urban center expanded at extraordinary rates in the years following World War II, the Salt River Project made use of its water rights along the Verde River for the benefit of the growing population. Thus, urban perceptions, values, and attitudes were projected onto the Verde Valley landscape: the river was viewed and treated as a resource and commodity above all else. With portions of the Verde managed largely to serve the needs of the Phoenix metropolitan area, the natural environment along much of its course changed significantly. Historian James Byrkit once commented that though the Verde is the only perennial waterway remaining in Arizona, it has essentially been "tamed" through such exploitation of its resources. The recent attempts to conquer the desert and develop the Salt River Valley have come at the expense of the transformation of the Verde River. [9]

Other instances of the manipulation of the resources of the river offer evidence of the alteration of the Verde Valley landscape and the ideologies informing these activities. A power plant was completed at the town of Childs in 1909 to take advantage of the natural springs located on Fossil Creek. The operation included a dam and flume that diverted water from the creek to a man-made reservoir and then down a precipitous drop to run three hydroelectric generators before emptying into the Verde. The plant, which is still in operation, has provided electricity for years to many central Arizona communities. This diversion of Fossil Creek for the sake of power generation is indicative of the prioritization of the exploitation over the protection of the natural resources of the Verde River through most of the historic European American settlement of the region.

Tourism and recreation are two other activities that have exploited the resources of the river in some fashion. Near the Childs Power Plant, the Verde Hot Springs resort was built in the late 1920s. Although this resort, which burned down in 1958, did not have a significant impact on the landscape, its construction reveals the influence of European American ideas of leisure and health on the resources of the area. [10] More recently, the Verde River and some of its tributaries have become popular outdoor recreation destinations. In the areas that experience frequent usage, the river suffers from trampling, litter, paving for parking lots and facilities, water-quality problems, and strains on water supplies. [11] These impacts from recreational activities stand as further examples of how particular perceptions, values, and attitudes have informed the uses of natural resources and helped reshape the Verde environment in recent times.

While the Verde Valley became increasingly popular as a tourist destination in the postwar years, it also experienced significant residential growth. The boom in population during this time led to the fast-paced development of the area communities and created an enlarged demand for water. James Byrkit astutely observed how the built environment of the Verde Valley has been rapidly transformed during the past several decades to accommodate the new residents:

The area, once bucolic and serene, saw its first traffic light installed as recently as 1977. The signs of growth are everywhere. Subdivisions, real estate offices, mobile-home sales lots and shopping centers now command attentionnot wildlife, sunsets and green stream beds. Newcomers in a quest for simplicity, solitude and a haven from the crime and tensions of the city are changing the Verde Valley from a rural, slow-paced area into familiar suburbia. . . . These people are going to destroy the very thing they come to enjoy. The invasion threatens to spoil permanently the Valley's fragile geographic and biologic attractions. [12]

In addition to the physical changes associated with the development of the valley communities, the regional growth has put strains on the available natural resources. As land previously used for grazing and agriculture was subdivided into concentrated residential and commercial areas, the local demand for water has increased. Because of the prior appropriation of all surface water rights in the Verde Valley, however, the area communities have had to depend on groundwater pumping for much of their water needs. This practice has not had a significant impact on the river to date, but concerns have been expressed about the impact of future regional growth and groundwater pumping on the surface flows of the Verde. The prospect of reduced water supplies inspired two different projects in the 1960s aimed at clearing the watershed of water-loving riparian vegetation that consumes valuable water resources. Both the project undertaken cooperatively by private land owners and the one initiated by the U.S. Forest Service were found to have mixed results in terms of water retention and were later discontinued. [13] However, continued concerns about the long-term water resources in the region have prompted other studies and activities, including the formation of the Verde River Corridor Project in 1989. This locally directed effort set out to examine the various uses and values of the river corridor and to develop a plan of action to conserve the river and its related resources in a way that is balanced with growth and economics. [14] The changing patterns of demand on the Verde River water resources highlight the tremendous growth and development that have occurred in the Verde Valley in recent years. These changes also reflect the ideologies and values that have accompanied the regional growth and have set the terms of people's interactions with the natural environment.

Ironically, one of the values that has most recently affected the Verde Valley landscapeenvironmental protectionhas come about largely in response to the earlier activities that impacted the area environment. As studies on the quantity and quality of the natural resources in the valley appeared beginning in the 1970s, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private citizens recognized the need to take action to protect the wildlife and natural features of the region from future damage and overexploitation. Those active in supporting this cause have drawn from the inspiration and lessons of the well-established environmental movement. However, wilderness and environmental protection are by no means universal values. The conflicts that have arisen between advocates for environmental issues and those supporting other causes emphasize the contested ideological terrain that has often determined the fate of the physical landscape.

An example of such conflicting values regarding the use and management of natural resources can be found in the recent debates about the development of the Verde Valley Ranch. In the late-1980s, the Phelps Dodge Corporation announced a proposal to build a major housing development and golf course in the vicinity of Peck's Lake. The plans called for reclaiming and building on top of a tailings pond created from earlier mining activities. During public hearings, some local citizens and environmental groups expressed concerns about the possibility of hazardous materials in the tailings pond and the impact of the project on area wildlife, habitat, and water quality. The construction schedule was delayed amidst heated debates. Environmental groups filed numerous protests, and state and federal agencies became involved in overseeing and regulating different stages of the development. Continued delays occurred while Phelps Dodge awaited the issuance of various permits related to project construction. Now, more than a decade after the introduction of the project proposal, the development of the Verde Valley Ranch is still far from finished. [15]

The severity of the ideological clashes over this proposed development is a testament to the power of cultural perceptions, values, and attitudes in shaping the physical landscape of the Verde Valley over time. Particular sets of ideological perspectives have also informed NPS natural resource management efforts at Montezuma Castle National Monument. To understand these perspectives, the scope of the agency's activities, and their impact on the landscape, it is important to consider them in light of the historical changes to the regional landscape and within the context of agency policies toward natural resources.

Although the federal government technically became responsible for the administration of Montezuma Castle upon its establishment as a national monument in 1906, many years passed before serious efforts were made to manage the natural resources of the site. The General Land Office, the first agency placed in charge of the Castle, and later the National Park Service, valued the monument primarily for its archeological features and focused on their preservation. However, as a result of these agencies' essential neglect of the monument, the officials first assigned to look after the Castle were overburdened by the basic protection and stabilization needs of the ruins and lacked adequate resources to do much about them. Faced with numerous management challenges relating to the threatened prehistoric structures, these officials viewed the natural resources at the monument to be of secondary importance and devoted practically no attention to their study or protection. This situation typified early NPS management of natural resources at many parks and monuments under its jurisdiction. Although the 1916 Organic Act that created the NPS stated that the purpose of the national parks was "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations," the fledgling agency interpreted this mandate loosely and acted primarily to promote recreational developments, tourist accommodations, and the protection of scenery. [16]

In his book Preserving Nature in the National Parks, historian Richard Sellars documents the influence of biological science and ecological principles on NPS management policies over time. He notes that the years between 1929 and 1940 witnessed the agency's initial efforts to manage natural resources based on the principles of ecological science, including surveys of park wildlife, various research projects, and the creation of the Wildlife Division. However, these scientific endeavors, which came into being largely as a result of biologist George Wright's personal initiative and fortune, proved to be short-lived. [17] Despite a growing awareness of ecological ideas and the publication of specific wildlife management recommendations in the groundbreaking 1933 study Fauna of the National Parks of the United States: A Preliminary Survey of Faunal Relations in National Parks, the NPS administration renewed its emphasis on recreation and public use in its management policies during the 1930s and 1940s. The widespread development of park and monument facilities performed by New Deal programs further solidified the agency's commitment to the utilitarian use of its sites at the expense of scientifically based approaches to management. As Sellars points out, however, many of the administrative efforts undertaken during the early years of the Park Servicefrom recreational tourism development to the implementation of natural resource management initiativesprimarily affected the national parks. Most of the national monuments received minimal NPS attention and remained outside the purview of agency policies. [18]

This situation accurately reflects the status of natural resource management activities at Montezuma Castle in the years prior to World War II. The Castle was basically neglected for years because of its designation as a national monument, and management efforts there suffered as a result. [19] One incidental benefit of this policy of neglect was the fact that the resources at the monument were spared from the impact of large-scale tourist facility developments, such as occurred at many national parks at this time. However, NPS officials considered Montezuma Castle to be first and foremost an archeological monument and paid scant attention to the natural resources of the site. Because the agency had no policy in place for the systematic study and protection of these resources, research on and protection of the natural features at Montezuma Castle depended on the personal interests and talents of the monument staff and their families and on the efforts of independent researchers.

Even though the NPS administration ignored the natural resources at Montezuma Castle for years, the lush riparian vegetation and diverse faunal populations found in this location along Beaver Creek were apparent to most visitors. Researchers Walter Taylor and Hartley Jackson from the U.S. Biological Survey recognized the scientific interest of the birds and mammals of the region, and in 1916 published the findings of a biologic survey they conducted throughout the Verde Valley, including areas within monument boundaries. This study includes information about the species that the biologists observed and is a useful document for examining the changes in the regional environment over time. [20]

Such a professional scientific study of the natural features at Montezuma Castle, however, was the exception rather than the rule for many years. Betty Jackson's study of birds was more typical of the informal research conducted during the early years of the monument. Soon after her husband, Earl, took over as the custodian at Montezuma Castle in 1937, Mrs. Jackson began watching and later banding birds at the monument and recorded her observations. Having a lifelong interest in natural history and anthropology, she started watching birds while earning her degree in geology at Vassar College and continued this hobby when she taught at a private school in New Mexico. Mrs. Jackson began the bird-watching and bird-banding program at Montezuma Castle out of personal interest and because of the potential scientific information she thought it could provide. Her column "Bird Notes" became a regular feature in the Southwestern Monuments Reports and inspired similar bird-watching projects at other monuments. She remembers that Frank Pinkley encouraged her in this pursuit and was extremely appreciative of the contributions she made to the monument. [21] Mrs. Jackson compiled extensive files that formed the foundation for the research on the birds of Montezuma Castle that continued long after the Jacksons were transferred from the monument in 1942.

This example of a personally initiated natural history study was typical of the research efforts at Montezuma Castle and other national monuments in lieu of an agency-wide program to deal with the study and management of natural resources. During his assignment as the custodian of Montezuma Castle, Earl Jackson performed several studies of his own on subjects such as the reptiles, insects, and fish at the monument. Jackson's observations on these topics often found their way into his submissions to the Southwestern Monuments Reports, and he incorporated many of the specimens he collected into the popular natural history displays at the Castle museum. It should also be noted that Jackson began a program of rattlesnake elimination in areas of high traffic at the monument out of concern for visitor safety. Information gained from these studies was included in displays for the nature trail constructed at the monument. In addition, Ranger William Bowen spent time investigating the native plants of the region, collecting samples for the museum herbarium, and adding plants to the garden area along the nature trail. Reporting on his rare visit to Montezuma Castle in 1941, NPS regional biologist W. B. McDougall noted the numerous research and interpretation activities that the monument staff were pursuing. He was impressed by these accomplishments, especially considering the small size of the monument and what he considered to be the limited natural resources at this archeological site. McDougall wrote, "When there is a real, energetic will to do biologic work it can be done regardless of the locality or the size of the area at the worker's disposal." [22] Given the NPS lack of commitment to the scientific management of natural resources at this time, especially for the national monuments, the dedicated efforts of the Montezuma Castle staff had to suffice.

During the period of U.S. involvement in World War II and the immediate postwar years, the Park Service faced a drastic cutback in its budget, programs, and personnel. The agency as a whole was reduced to a "protection and maintenance basis," and issues concerning the study and management of natural resources, which were already a low priority, were pushed further back on the agency agenda. [23] However, the long-awaited acquisition of Montezuma Well following the conclusion of the war provided the staff at Montezuma Castle with a wealth of natural resources to study. The geological and biological features at the Well had attracted the curiosity of visitors and area residents ever since the Spanish exploration party led by Antonio de Espejo likely passed through the Verde Valley and recorded descriptions of them in the late sixteenth century.

Soon after the establishment of Camp Verde and the increasing European American presence in the Verde Valley, numerous articles and reports began to appear that described the unique natural and cultural features around Montezuma Well and suggested various theories about them. These accounts ranged from professional in nature (such as the reports prepared by archeologist Jesse Walter Fewkes on his observations at the Well) to promotional (such as the travel writings of Colonel Hiram C. Hodge and the articles penned by regional booster Charles Lummis) to mythical (as seen in the fanciful rumors that the Aztec ruler Montezuma dumped his treasures in the Well). [24] One of the more popular topics for speculation had to do with the origin of the Well, with claims indicating that it was really an extinct volcano or had been created by a falling meteor. [25] Authors also had various ideas about the depth of the Well; reported measurements taken over the years ranged from sixty feet to more than eight hundred feet without reaching bottom. [26]

During the time when the Back family owned the property, the natural features around the Well experienced some changes as a result of both natural occurrences and the family's activities there. Natural occurrences reported at the Well included a fire in the early 1900s that destroyed most of the ash, walnut, alder, cottonwood, willow, and sycamore trees located inside the Well interior; an occasional bubbling of mud that appeared at the water surface; and the collapse of a portion of the rock wall that surrounded the Well. [27] Notable activities of the Back family that impacted the natural resources of the site included an unsuccessful attempt to stock the Well with catfish and bluegills, the periodic clearing of the outlet that affected the water level in the Well, and the reported blasting of part of the outlet cave to enlarge it. [28]

Although members of the Back family claimed that a number of different research efforts were conducted when they owned the property, the scientific studies of Montezuma Well undertaken after the site became part of the monument helped to dispel much of the misinformation that had circulated for years and provided useful information about the natural resources there. These studies, however, were not part of any agency initiative to better understand and manage the resources at this new addition to the NPS system; they came about as a result of the interests of non—Park Service researchers. One such study took place in July 1947, when Dr. Harold Colton and Edwin McKee of the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) took soundings of the Well using a string with a weight attached at the end. The deepest measurement they recorded was fifty-five feet, near the center of the Well. Soundings in other locations indicated the bottom to be saucer shaped, with two steep drops occurring at different distances from the outer edges of the Well. [29]

Colton returned the following year to conduct further studies of Montezuma Well. This time the MNA sponsored H. J. Charbonneau, a former navy diver, to make a series of underwater explorations and gather information about the floor of the Well. With the assistance of Dr. Colton, Ferrell Colton, and Richard Suraunt from the MNA and of monument archeologist Albert Schroeder, Charbonneau made several descents into the Well on 15 May 1948 using a diving mask and compressed air (figure 36). The results of this research provided new data about the depth and bottom surface of the Well, but also raised additional questions. Eight years later, monument officials authorized another underwater study of the Well. Alice Schultz collected various plant and animal specimens while using an Aqua-Lung as part of a research project sponsored by Phoenix College. It seems, however, that Schultz did not produce a report on her findings. [30]

Charbonneau and staff
Figure 36. H. J. Charbonneau and monument staff preparing for diving research at Montezuma Well. Photos taken in May 1948 by Custodian Homer Hastings, on file in the Montezuma Well office.

In contrast to the earlier underwater studies at the Well, the Park Service directly supported more recent endeavors, indicating the agency's improved commitment to scientific research and management over the years. In 1968, George R. Fisher and a crew of NPS researchers used scuba gear to conduct an underwater archeological survey of Montezuma Well and look for deposits of artifacts at the bottom. Although the team recovered some ceramics and chipped stone materials that matched artifacts from Swallet Cave and the pueblo on the rim of the Well, the diving conditions in general were poor, and the project produced disappointing results. [31] The most recent diving research effort was undertaken in 1991, this time using more sophisticated equipment and research techniques. The goals of this project, which involved a team of divers from the U.S. Geological Survey, included accurately mapping the bottom surface of the Well, determining the depth of the water, locating the springs that act as inlets, gathering information about the geological source of the water, collecting water samples, and studying the flow dynamics of water in the Well. The results of this project and the earlier studies added to the growing body of knowledge about the Well's geological, hydrological, and biological characteristics. [32]

Around the time of the MNA-conducted research at the Well, other activities at the monument also affected the natural resources of the area. In the late 1940s, monument officials authorized a lease of the tillable land at the Well unit to the Montezuma Dairy Company for growing oats. In later years, the monument leased twenty-seven acres of its irrigated farm and meadow land for hay crops and also allowed the incidental grazing of this area. One condition of this arrangement was that the lessee would maintain fences and irrigation ditches. Over the years, neighboring ranchers who owned some of the rights to the water from the Well also helped with the cleaning and repair of the prehistoric and modern irrigation ditches that delivered water to them (figures 37 and 38). [33] Also at the Well, Allen G. Hely from the Water Resources Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey measured the flow of water through the Well outlet. The readings taken between 1948 and 1951 found the flow to be between 1,340,000 and 1,800,000 gallons per day, depending in part on obstructions in the outlet. Through much of the 1950s, monument staff continued their informal natural history research and interpretation efforts at both of the units, including ongoing counts of birds in the region, the collection of native plants for an herbarium installed at the monument museum, and studies of the monument's geological features. [34]

water ditch
Figure 37. Top: Joint water users' ditch cleaning project at Montezuma Well. Bottom: Traces of the prehistoric ditch in the bottom of the modern ditch located during the ditch-cleaning project. Photos included in the Montezuma Well 1956 Review Pictorial Report, Montezuma Castle National Monument Monthly Narrative Reports, on file at the Montezuma Castle visitor center library.

Figure 38. Burro from neighboring lands looking for water in a prehistoric irrigation ditch. Photos included in the Montezuma Well 1956 Review Pictorial Report, Montezuma Castle National Monument Narrative Reports, on file at the Montezuma Castle visitor center library.

The tremendous national growth of tourism in the postwar years that inspired the creation of the Mission 66 program and its plans for systemwide developments also resulted in new approaches to the agency's management of natural resources. In contrast to the rhetoric of the Mission 66 goals that indicated a strong commitment to research and the biological sciences, the NPS biology programs continued to languish and received just a fraction of the funding allocated for development and construction projects. And, in place of expanding its own programs for scientific research, the NPS continued its practice of encouraging outside research done by universities and other government agencies. [35] Yet despite the neglect of the NPS research programs, consideration of natural resources did figure into the Mission 66 plans formulated for the different parks and monuments during the late 1950s. At the outset of the program, agency officials viewed "controlled pattern developments"that is, containing public use to designated areasas the best way to limit the impact to natural resources and wilderness areas. This attitude reflected the influence of landscape architects in shaping Mission 66 plans and agency policies toward natural resources, as well as the weakness of the NPS biology programs. During the course of implementing the Mission 66 program, agency officials thus continued to prioritize the values of recreational tourism and public enjoyment over the scientific management of sites based on ecological principles. [36]

At Montezuma Castle National Monument, Mission 66 planning documents advocated that the proposed new facilities be restricted to the designated developed areas in order to minimize the impact to sensitive natural resources. Although the plans recognized the urgent need to expand the monument facilities to keep pace with the explosive increases in visitation, they also noted the importance of protecting and interpreting the natural features. Thus, by the careful placement of the planned developments, preferably near ones already in existence, officials hoped to concentrate the intensive use of the monument in specified areas without compromising the integrity of the unspoiled natural areas. Given the small size of the monument and the patterns of intensive visitationespecially the recent trend of bus toursthis proved to be a difficult task. Yet the landscape architects, engineers, and regional officials worked with the monument staff and agreed on a master plan that provided facilities to accommodate visitor use at the monument while setting aside undeveloped areas for the protection of the diverse vegetation, wildlife, and geological features along Beaver Creek. The master plan also contained ideas for improving the interpretation of the natural resources of the monument, such as the enlargement of nature trails and the creation of displays on the riparian habitat. Although in later years NPS officials reevaluated several aspects of this master plan in light of continued regional growth and different environmental values, the Mission 66 program improved the general status of the natural resources at the monument. [37]

It is interesting to note that the Mission 66 plans make only limited reference to research issues relating to the natural resources of the monument. As a result of NPS neglect of its own biological research programs, outside individuals and institutions had conducted most of the previous studies at the Castle and Well. In particular, the Museum of Northern Arizona contributed significantly to the natural history investigations of the area. In addition to its sponsorship of the earlier research on the hydrology and geology of the Well, the MNA cosponsored with the Western Speleological Institute in 1954 a detailed study of the outlet cave. Directed by Arthur Lange, this project involved mapping the cave interior and gathering data about the origin of the Well and cave. The MNA further demonstrated its commitment to the cause of regional research by publishing Myron Sutton's bird survey in its journal Plateau and by sponsoring a study of the plants at Montezuma Castle. [38]

Although the 1961 master plan notes the need for further scientific research at the monument, such studies would have to originate from outside of the NPS. On the research questions about the geology of the monument, the master plan stated that "The questions of larger scope must, in the main, be left to cooperating geologists; we can assist them with on-the-spot reporting, collecting, and recording of observations." [39] The agency's hesitancy to support ecological research hindered its ability to make management decisions based on empirical information about the resources of sites such as Montezuma Castle. Eventually, the NPS created the Cooperative Park Studies Unit (CPSU) program that linked NPS sites with university-based research offices and helped systematically address the agency's research needs. Yet prior to the establishment of the CPSU at Northern Arizona University in 1988, scientific research on the natural resources at the Castle and Well usually had to wait until an interested individual or organization took the initiative. Fortunately, researchers from Arizona's universities picked up where the Museum of Northern Arizona left off and helped fill in some of the serious gaps in the research program at Montezuma Castle National Monument.

As the NPS wavered in its commitment to ecological science in the 1960s, it advanced natural resource management programs that were typically more traditional in their perspectives, oriented around practical matters, and carried out by park rangers. [40] Examples of such resource management issues appeared in sections of the 1961 master plan for Montezuma Castle dealing with topics such as fire control, forest insect and disease control, grazing and browsing control, vegetation management, and soil and moisture conservation. Although ideally a solid foundation of scientific evidence usually informed these management concerns, this was not always the case. Especially at a small archeological monument such as Montezuma Castle, many natural resource management activities were conducted when funding and staff permitted, never mind whether or not they were supported by research findings. However, for urgent issues such as fire control and insect and disease control, the monument provided training to staff, supplied necessary tools and equipment, and took preventative measures to ensure the protection of its resources from disaster. [41]

Other important resource management issues addressed by Mission 66 and later planning documents were the status of the monument boundaries and the impact of changes to the surrounding lands on its resources. Reacting to the rapid growth of regional tourism and the development of the Verde Valley communities in the postwar years, monument officials expressed concerns about activities at neighboring properties and their potential to detract from the scenic and environmental qualities at the monument units. Although much of the land surrounding the Castle and Well was included within the Coconino National Forest, grazing and rock-mining activities done under permit created visual distractions and threatened to affect the natural resources nearby. In addition, the recent subdivision of private properties along the approach roads and in places visible from the public-use areas of the monument raised concerns about incoming residential and commercial developments that would compromise the visual setting of the monument units. As it was, the boundaries contained only the bare minimum amount of land necessary for the inclusion of the protected monument features, with practically no buffer zone between these features and the neighboring properties. Moreover, the existing boundaries posed management problems for the monument staff; the irregularity of the perimeter lines and their location along portions of Beaver Creek made fence installation and maintenance extremely cumbersome, thereby also making it difficult to keep wandering cattle off of monument property. To resolve many of these problems, monument staff recommended the expansion of the boundaries at the Castle and Well units, and suggested that future on-site facilities be carefully planned to minimize the impact of private developments to the viewshed. [42]

Following these recommendations, the NPS drew up legislation for the enlargement of the monument boundaries in order to prevent any unwanted developments or activities from occurring on the privately owned lands immediately bordering the monument. Thus, by an act of Congress dated 23 June 1959, the boundary of the Castle unit was enlarged by 42.17 acres and that of the Well unit by 16.83 acres. This act also authorized the secretary of the interior to acquire the private inholdings within these revised boundaries. Though the NPS eventually purchased the two inholdings at the Castle without great difficulty, the acquisition of the inholding at the Well proved to be much more problematic. [43]

The origin of this problem dates back to 1908 when William B. Back conveyed to Benjamin S. Witter the property in question, described at the time as "that portion of Lot 4 lying south and east of Beaver Creek." This property eventually became part of the Soda Springs Ranch owned by Virginia Finnie Lowdermilk, who later married Paul Webb. When the NPS began investigations in 1946 regarding the acquisition of the Montezuma Well property, officials surveyed the area and established the location of Beaver Creek at this time. However, Mr. and Mrs. Webb disputed the findings of this survey, contending that the big flood in 1937 shifted the course of Beaver Creek, thereby altering the property boundaries. Despite NPS officials' numerous attempts over the years to come to an agreement with the Webbs about this boundary, the issue has never been resolved. And Mr. Webb's (Virginia passed away in the early 1980s) refusal to sell this parcel to the Park Service despite its inclusion within the official boundaries of the monument in 1959 has created a managerial headache. The agency installed fences along the creek on a number of occasions in order to keep the boundary between the monument and the Webb property, but floods repeatedly destroyed them. The monument staff finally gave up trying to maintain a fence in the floodplain and instead erected one set back from the creek on higher ground. However, this situation has allowed Webb's cattle to cross unobstructed from his land onto monument property and forage in the lush riparian area along Beaver Creek. Thus, in addition to the agency's failure to date to acquire Webb's inholding and to secure for the monument its valuable scenic and natural features, the presence of Webb's cattle jeopardized the riparian corridor within the monument. [44]

The NPS was more successful in its efforts to acquire a small parcel of land located just outside the northwest boundary of the Castle unit. Monument officials became interested in this parcel because of the presence of an exceptionally well-preserved collection of Pliocene mammal footprintsincluding those made by cats, camels, tapirs, and mammothsembedded in the former shoreline of the ancient lake located in the Verde Valley. Montezuma Castle ranger Myron Sutton identified these footprints, located within the Coconino National Forest, in his 1953 survey of the geology of the Verde Valley, and subsequently paleontologists and other researchers conducted a number of studies of the rare tracks. [45] Because of the isolated location of the mammal tracks and the infrequent visitation they received, the Forest Service provided minimal supervision and protection for this area, making the tracks subject to potential theft and vandalism. To compensate for the lack of staff devoted to this site, Forest Service officials decided in 1971 to construct a rail fence around the tracks for protection. [46] However, within one year it was determined that this fence provided little extra protection to the tracks and actually caused a negative impact to them. In addition, an article appearing about this time in a local newspaper attracted increased attention to the well-known tracks and aroused heightened concerns about the potential for vandalism. In place of the ineffective fence, the Forest Service covered the tracks with soil until a more permanent solution to their preservation and management could be worked out. [47]

In the early 1970s, officials from the Forest Service and the National Park Service discussed ways to provide better protection for the fossil footprints and make them into an interpretive feature for the public, but inadequate funding and staffing on the part of both agencies precluded any immediate action from being taken. One point of agreement, however, was both agencies' desire to transfer responsibility for the footprints to the National Park Service. The location of the footprints in an area removed from Forest Service—developed areas made it difficult for the Forest Service to provide adequate interpretation and protection; further, the proximity of the Montezuma Castle unit of the monument made it logical for the NPS to assume responsibility for them. In a 1972 letter to Montezuma Castle superintendent Edward Nichols, John Schafer of the U.S. Geological Survey noted the unique qualities of the fossil footprints and articulated the following reasons why the NPS should assume their management:

I believe that the locality is uniquely worthy of inclusion in the National Monument and of interpretation and protection. This is so for such reasons as the extraordinary vividness of the phenomena; the striking contrast between the circumstances of formation of the tracks and present conditions; the ease of presentation in a detailed geologic background (the 5-million-year-old Pliocene lake); and the immediate proximity to the existing National Monument. I cannot overstate my convictions that this is ideally suited for inclusion in the National Park System, and that properly displayed it would be an outstanding attraction to visitors. [48]

Although the Forest Service officials expressed their willingness to have the NPS assume the protection and interpretation of the fossil footprints, the transfer or exchange of lands between two federal agencies required an act of Congress, which typically involves a lengthy process.

The two agencies began efforts in the mid-1970s to seek authorization for this land transfer. The urgency of this transfer was emphasized by the arrest of two visitors in 1977 who were attempting to remove a set of fossil camel tracks from the deposit on Forest Service land; until better supervision and protection of the footprints could be provided, they remained vulnerable to acts of vandalism. While waiting for the land transfer to become official, staff from Montezuma Castle lent their assistance to the Forest Service in the protection, interpretation, and management of the tracks. Eventually the agencies agreed on a land exchange, whereby Montezuma Castle National Monument would receive the roughly thirteen-acre parcel containing the fossil footprints and the Coconino National Forest would receive the nearly five-acre parcel of land lying north of the right-of-way where Interstate 17 crosses the northwest corner of the monument. After the successful completion of compliance requirements, the land exchange between the two agencies was made official by Public Law 95-625 dated 10 November 1978 (Appendix F). This exchange proved to be mutually beneficial: the NPS was able to provide better management of the fossil footprints and no longer had its property bisected by the interstate; and the Forest Service, which already administered other property affected by Interstate 17 rights-of-way, built on its working relationship with the Arizona Department of Transportation and was relieved of caring for the isolated fossil feature. Administrative efforts for both agencies were facilitated by this land exchange. [49]

After the NPS acquired the fossil footprints, monument officials worked on plans to develop an interpretive exhibit with some type of shelter. To serve the proposed new interpretive area, a small parking area was built nearby when the Castle entrance road was reconstructed. However, this is the only development that has occurred to date. A lack of funding prevented the construction of the planned trail and exhibit, and the site was once again covered with soil to protect the footprints. In light of the nearly one million annual visitors to Montezuma Castle in recent years and the potential high traffic at the site of the mammal tracks, the monument administration is reconsidering the wisdom of creating an interpretive exhibit there. The current levels of visitation already put serious strains on the resources at the monument; the addition of a new interpretive feature removed from the main visitor center area would only increase the need for more monument staff and instigate more funding challenges. At present, then, covering up the fossil footprints seems to offer the best solution to their preservation. [50]

Even after the earlier enlargement of the monument boundaries in 1959, officials continued to express concerns about the changing context of the Verde Valley and the potential impacts to monument resources. In particular, they identified the problems created by the encroachment of rapid development of residential subdivisions in areas adjacent to both monument units and the Interstate 17 interchange proposed to be constructed in the northwest corner of the Castle unit. Studies conducted in the late 1960s noted the various threats to the monument at this time and suggested that the NPS foster cooperative relationships with private landowners and local, state, and federal agencies to coordinate planning efforts and minimize the impacts to regional resources. [51]

In December 1969, a joint NPS/U.S. Forest Service task force was formed and produced the study entitled "An Environmental Integrity Plan, Montezuma Castle National Monument." This study made recommendations regarding the resource management issues facing the monument and resulted in a memorandum of agreement between the two agencies for the purpose of protecting and preserving the environmental integrity of the area. The agreement established the Montezuma Castle Backdrop Management Unit, an environmental scenic zone surrounding the monument on lands within the Coconino National Forest. It further stipulated that both agencies would mutually pursue an active program to acquire all private inholdings within the monument and the Backdrop Management Unit. In addition, the agreement provided for the annual review of the environmental quality at the monument and allowed for changes in the Backdrop Management Unit to be made as needed (figure 39). [52]

Figure 39. Montezuma Castle National Monument Environmental Backdrop Unit. Included in Final Master Plan, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments, October 1975, 34. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Both responses to the regional changes taking place as a result of the growth and development of the Verde Valley as well as values and ideas from the emerging environmental movement informed the concerns about the natural resources at the monument and the creation of the Montezuma Castle Backdrop Management Unit. The activism of environmentalist groups during the 1960s and 1970s fostered a greater awareness within the Park Service and the general public about the ideas of ecological science. Yet the NPS was not immediately receptive to some of the environmentalists' challenges. The agency received sharp criticism at this time for the impact of the Mission 66 developments on park areas, the inappropriateness of the modern design of many of the new facilities, and its development of new recreation areas. NPS Director Conrad Wirth, a landscape architect by training and an ardent supporter of developing and managing parks for recreational tourism and public use, resented the questioning of the agency's priorities and continued the practice of dealing with resource management issues through controlled pattern development. However, the issuance in 1963 of findings from two different independent studies pointed out the agency's marginal commitment to ecological principles and scientific research in the past and engendered a rethinking of the purpose and policies of park management. The Leopold Report and the National Academy Report advocated the integration of ecological perspectives in resource management decisions and contributed to the heightened role of scientific research within the agency during the 1960s and 1970s. [53]

The changing attitudes toward environmental issues at this time lent support to new ideas about resource management at Montezuma Castle and Well. Although the creation of the Backdrop Management Unit helped protect the environmental integrity of the area surrounding the monument units, the continued growth and development of the Verde Valley and the steadily increasing visitation to regional attractions (including the Castle and Well) placed added strains on the monument facilities and caused NPS officials to reconsider the placement and nature of the physical developments within the monument. Taking into consideration this altered regional context and the need to maximize the efficient use of space and facilities, the master plan prepared in 1975 called for a reappraisal of the physical developments of the monument as they related to the present and future program as well as to administrative needs.

In contrast to earlier ideas of self-containment that guided monument developments, this plan recommended that only facilities performing essential on-site functions remain within the monument boundaries. Other functions, such as staff housing, maintenance operations, visitor orientation, and parking could be moved to proposed shared community facilities. By removing some of these functions to off-site locations, space within monument boundaries would be freed up to reduce congestion and to accommodate more efficiently the intensive visitor use of both units.

The proposals made in the 1975 master plan also promised to benefit indirectly some of the natural resources and features at the monument. For example, the implementation of a public transportation system between the Yavapai-Apache Cultural Center and the monument would improve air quality in addition to reducing visitor traffic and congestion. The proposed relocation of the maintenance, administration, and residential facilities at the Castle unit would allow for the restoration of the riparian area along Beaver Creek, thus protecting valuable habitat and creating an interesting new interpretive area. And the removal of the staff residences at the Well would clear the ancient Sinagua farmlands of all modern developments in order to protect the natural and cultural resources there and provide an opportunity to interpret another aspect of the prehistoric setting at the monument. In addition to these proposed structural changes, the master plan recommended incorporating new themes into the monument interpretive program to explore issues of past, present, and future relationships between humans and nature in the Verde Valley. Despite these ambitious ideas, the only major change that took place was the relocation of the administrative, visitor orientation, and maintenance functions of the monument to the new Yavapai-Apache Cultural Center. [54]

Although many of the proposals from the 1975 master plan were not implemented, the ideas expressed in this document reflect the growing influence of ideas and values from the environmental movement on NPS management efforts at this time. The environmental debates of the 1960s and 1970s caused the agency to rethink its responsibilities to nature conservation and engendered renewed resource management and research science activities within the system. Another product of the environmental activism from this era was the passage of legislation that affected the activities of federal agencies in a variety of different ways. The new laws included the Wilderness Act (1964), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Clean Air Act (1990, as amended), the Clean Water Act (1972, as amended), the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (1964), and the National Environmental Policy Act (1969). These laws established new regulations and compliance criteria governing the management of natural resources and required federal agencies to devote substantial time and energy toward their fulfillment. In particular, the National Environmental Policy Act has had a profound impact on the theory and practice of NPS resource management efforts. This act mandates that all federal agencies take account of any adverse environmental impacts that would result from a proposed undertaking and consider them alongside the impacts from alternative actions. The spirit of this act seeks the preservation of important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage and calls on agencies to support this cause by following established procedures in their decision-making processes. This legislation also promotes efforts to enrich the understanding of ecological systems and encourages the use of scientific research to provide baseline knowledge about environmental resources so that potential impacts can be better monitored, analyzed, and, ideally, avoided. [55]

As a result of the National Environmental Policy Act and the other environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s, the National Park Service found itself with greater responsibilities to research and resource management. To comply with these laws, agency officials incorporated perspectives from both the natural and social sciences in their study of existing natural conditions, the historic changes to them, and the resource management needs for each unit in the NPS system. The information gained from this approach contributed to the preparation of resource management plans, environmental assessments, land protection plans, and other required management documents.

At Montezuma Castle, such plans and reports resulted in a notable increase in the attention devoted to the natural resources at the monument. In particular, the preparation of natural and cultural resource management plans in 1975 and 1996 increased the emphasis of ecological and environmental perspectives in management decisions. The staff at the monument has also completed environmental assessments that carefully evaluate the effects of proposed actions and present alternative management and development proposals. The initial instances of such efforts represented the first time that the NPS systematically considered the protection of the natural resources at Montezuma Castle. The philosophies and mandates set out in the environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s continue to shape the current management approaches at the monument and have been complemented over the years by amendments, new legislation, and new NPS policies. The resulting plans and reports have added to the understanding of the natural resources of the monument and have identified challenges to their long-term protection. [56]

Yet despite the increased consideration of environmental issues in these documents, the limited budget and staff for the monument have severely compromised the implementation of natural resource management programs and the realization of the stated goals at Montezuma Castle. The Natural and Cultural Resources Management Plan prepared in February 1996 addresses these shortcomings:

Montezuma Castle National Monument has a small staff, with no single position having full-time responsibility for either cultural or natural resources planning or protection. Current staffing levels are sufficient to allow for the continuance of minimum levels of natural resource protection through such activities as pest management, tree hazard removal and other vegetation management activities, program administration, and the preparation of a management plan for prehistoric Sinaguan fields. . . . An indication of the resource funding shortage at the monument is provided by the fact that the total project funding for both cultural and natural resources programs in the last five years at Montezuma Castle has been only about $55,000. This funding has come entirely from cultural cyclic maintenance, natural resource regional rotating base funds, cultural resource preservation funds, and fee enhancement funds. Increased base funding is needed by the monument to adequately do the job at hand. [57]

This plan additionally notes the dire need for a full-time professional resource manager to address the various cultural and natural resource issues at both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments. However, until the National Park Service commits substantial funding to increase the base funding for resource management programs at the monument, this situation will likely change little. [58]

In lieu of a more active program for dealing with major threats to the natural resources at Montezuma Castle, the agency has had to resort in recent years to indirect means to provide provisional protection. In one such attempt, Superintendent Henderson and the monument staff divided the Castle and Well units into four different management zones. These zonesnatural, historic, development, and special usetake account of the locations of the important monument resources and attempt to limit adverse impacts to them by restricting intensive activities and uses to specified areas. Reminiscent of the controlled pattern developments NPS officials advocated during the Mission 66 era, these management zones provide only limited protection and reflect the continued influence of tourism and visitor use in shaping monument management policies. [59]

Another recent pursuit concerning natural resources involves the rethinking of the interpretive story at the monument to emphasize more strongly the relationship between the regional environment and cultural developments over time. NPS officials have identified the lush resources of the riparian areas along Beaver Creek as important features that can serve to foster an understanding of the prehistoric setting and cultural activities of the Verde Valley. In addition to protecting these areas for their inherent natural qualities, administrators for the monument reason that because of their interpretive and educational potential, "it is essential to protect and preserve the ecological processes that created the cultural setting." Interpretive developments that would explore the connection between the natural landscape and cultural features of the monument have been proposed for the riparian corridor that passes through the Castle unit and at the prehistoric Sinaguan fields at the Well unit. However, little beyond the initiation of management studies has been accomplished to date to realize these interpretive plans. [60]

As noted earlier, the Verde River is the central feature of both the cultural and natural setting for the Verde Valley. NPS officials as well as representatives of other agencies and community groups have duly given their attention to the river and the other water resources of the region. Over the past two decades, much of the natural resource management program at Montezuma Castle and Well has centered around issues relating to these water resources. The changing patterns of regional land and water use during this time have raised concerns about water rights, water quality, aquifer protection, floodplain regulation, instream mining, instream flow, riparian habitats, wildlife, and endangered species. The need for greater study of the regional water resources was called into sharp relief in 1979 when the Northern Arizona Council of Governments identified the Verde Valley as the area with the highest water-quality planning priority in northern Arizona. This determination precipitated several subsequent regional hydrological research endeavors sponsored by groups such as the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. Concerns about the regional water resources also prompted the formation in 1989 of the Verde River Corridor Project, a planning effort involving numerous local, state, and federal participants. [61]

Playing a role in these regional efforts, the National Park Service has sponsored research on the hydrogeology and on both the surface water and groundwater resources of the area. In cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency has also monitored the discharge from Montezuma Well. Plus, the monument administration oversees the water claims on the discharge from the Well and coordinates the distribution of this water through the network of prehistoric and historic irrigation ditches. Because of the increasing demands that urban growth, agriculture, and commercial uses have placed on water resources, the coordination of water rights in the Verde Valley has grown more complicated and contested. The monument staff has attempted to balance, on the one hand, the delivery of discharge from Montezuma Well to downstream users and, on the other, the protection of the aquatic and riparian habitats at the monument. In recent years, the Water Resources Management Plan developed for Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments in 1992 has guided these efforts. This document takes into consideration the characteristics of the water resources, the legislative requirements, the various demands for water, the management goals and objectives for the monument, and the results of previous research on changes in the quantity and quality of the regional water resources. [62]

The growing body of technical literature and the management policies affecting the water and other natural resources at Montezuma Castle and Well have benefited notably from the various scientific research efforts conducted at the monument during the past thirty years. However, as a result of the National Park Service's wavering ideological and fiscal commitment to supporting research science and ecological principles during this time, investigators affiliated with universities, institutions, and other government agencies have done much of this research. In particular, natural history studies conducted at Montezuma Well by professors from universities in Arizona began to address the research needs of the monument in the years following the completion of the Mission 66 projects. In some sense, this new wave of research resumed the earlier work done by the staff from the Museum of Northern Arizona. The resulting studies have added a wealth of new data about the natural resources at the monument and have informed management policies and activities over the years. The bibliography of this literature dealing with the natural resources at Montezuma Castle National Monument has expanded tremendously since the mid-1960s. [63]

Two researchers stand out for the exceptional contributions they have made to the scientific understanding of the natural resources at Montezuma Well: Dr. Gerald A. Cole, a professor of zoology at Arizona State University, and Dr. Dean W. Blinn, a professor of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University. Dr. Cole began his limnological studies of Montezuma Well in 1960 with the assistance of a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation. The final report from this research project included a detailed mapping of the Well basin and technical data about the geology, water chemistry, flows, and biotic activity within the Well. [64] Cole's subsequent studies at the Montezuma Well unit have dealt with topics such as the value of the irrigation ditch system, the unique features of the area habitat, characteristics of the water chemistry and flow, and endemic species of amphipods found in the Well. Since the early 1980s, Dr. Blinn has actively researched the zoological and botanical species found in Montezuma Well. He has coauthored a number of articles and reports detailing the unique characteristics and interactions of organisms at the Well, including varieties of algae, amphipods, water scorpions, and leeches. These studies have provided valuable information about unusual life forms that have evolved and adapted to the aquatic environment in the Well.

However, despite the research conducted by Cole, Blinn, and others, significant gaps remained in understanding the monument ecosystems and threats to them. Because NPS science programs revolved largely around resource management and compliance issues in the 1960s and 1970s, the agency offered little direct support to scientific research efforts, particularly at national monuments such as Montezuma Castle that were primarily regarded in terms of their cultural resources. NPS officials therefore continued to encourage and capitalize on research conducted by outside agencies and institutions. In 1970, the agency formalized arrangements to meet its research needs when it established at the University of Washington the first Cooperative Park Studies Unita university-based scientific research office that drew upon the resources and skills of the university community to address the particular research problems that NPS units faced. [65]

Montezuma Castle National Monument benefited from the establishment of the CPSU at Northern Arizona University in October 1988. Conceptualized for coordinating research efforts on an ecosystem basis, the Colorado Plateau Research Station (CPRS), as it became known following its transfer to the National Biological Service in 1993, serves thirty-three Park Service units located within the Colorado Plateau. Although late in coming, the creation of this CPSU signaled the agency's recognition of the natural resources of the area and its growing commitment to incorporate ecological principles in its management policies. The CPRS utilizes the physical resources and faculty expertise at Northern Arizona University to provide scientific and technical guidance for the effective management of the natural and cultural resources at the NPS units within its jurisdiction. [66]

The staff from Montezuma Castle and the CPRS worked together to target the most serious research needs at the monument and developed a plan to address them. Despite earlier research efforts, there were still critical deficiencies in the baseline information about the flora, fauna, water, soils, air, and geology at the monument units. These deficiencies became particularly apparent as the ongoing growth in monument visitation threatened to impact the natural resources. The National Park Service's prior consideration of Montezuma Castle mainly in terms of its cultural resources and its lack of fiscal and staff support for resource management programs precluded earlier systematic studies of natural resources that could have helped guide management policies and prevented damage to the resources. According to Superintendent Glen Henderson, had such research efforts been initiated earlier, resource protection efforts would have been greatly facilitated over the years, and management plans would have focused greater attention on issues concerning particular natural resources. [67]

Although the lack of funding and staff continues to challenge the natural resource management goals at Montezuma Castle, the CPRS has made a tremendous contribution to understanding and protecting the natural resources. The ongoing CPRS research projects include natural resource inventories and monitoring, bibliographic and archival overviews, and the mapping of resources. Reports have been completed to date on fish and aquatic herpetofauna, aquatic invertebrates and plants, historic photos, and small mammal communities at the monument. Studies in progress treat topics such as terrestrial invertebrates, vegetation mapping, information management, and birds. This CPRS-conducted research helps the monument staff to fill in the gaps in the baseline data on the natural resources of the monument and to extend the minimal NPS funding devoted to natural resource management issues.

The information collected from these recent research efforts will help to shape management policies affecting the natural resources at Montezuma Castle National Monument well into the twenty-first century. Considering the dramatic changes that have already taken place in the Verde Valley in the years since World War II, it is imperative that action be taken quickly to gain an understanding of and to protect these resources before they are forever lost. It is also important that NPS officials incorporate the results of this research into the development of a vision for the future of the monument. This vision should attempt to anticipate changes in the regional population and development, the demand for resources, the visitation to and use of the monument, and the possibilities for partnerships with other stakeholders in the region. Yet though such a vision looks ahead to the future, it also reflects the attitudes, values, and perceptions that shape our present relationship with the landscape. The management activities affecting the natural resources at Montezuma Castle are but the latest in a long line of human interactions with the environment of the Verde Valley. Hopefully we can learn from the successes and failures of those who preceded us here to create a balanced relationship that respects the natural features of the area and nurtures a vibrant and prosperous regional community.



A Past Preserved in Stone:
A History of Montezuma Castle National Monument

©2002, Western National Parks Association
protas/chap6.htm — 27-Nov-2002