National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Chapter 1 - Introduction

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

This State of the Park report for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the third to be produced by the National Park Service. Its purpose is to assess the overall condition of the park's priority resources and values, to communicate complex park condition information to visitors and the American public in a clear and simple way, and to inform visitors and other stakeholders about stewardship actions being taken by park staff to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources for future generations. The State of the Park report uses a standardized approach to focus attention on the priority resources and values of the park based on the park's purpose and significance, as described in the park's Foundation Document or General Management Plan. The report:

  • Provides to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values.
  • Summarizes and communicates complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format.
  • Highlights park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the state of the park.
  • Identifies key issues and challenges facing the park to inform park management planning.

The process of identifying priority park resources by park staff and partners, tracking their condition, organizing and synthesizing data and information, and communicating the results will be closely coordinated with the park planning process, including natural and cultural resource condition assessments and Resource Stewardship Strategy development. The term "priority resources" is used to identify the fundamental and other important resources and values for the park, based on a park's purpose and significance within the National Park System, as documented in the park's foundation document and other planning documents. This report summarizes and communicates the overall condition of priority park resources and values based on the available scientific and scholarly information and expert opinion, irrespective of the ability of the park superintendent or the National Park Service to influence it.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is one of the most biologically diverse protected areas in the Sonoran Desert region of North America, conserving uniquely adapted flora and fauna, including numerous threatened and endangered species. Although readers of this report will see that the monument faces some considerable challenges, visitors to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument can nonetheless, still experience a protected natural area with wilderness character that provides opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, expansive vistas, enjoyment of the natural night sky, and spiritual replenishment in a Sonoran Desert setting. The purposes of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument are to:

  • Perpetuate for future generations a representative sample of the natural and cultural resources of the Sonoran Desert and provide for public understanding, safe use, and enjoyment of the same.
  • Serve as a natural laboratory for understanding and managing the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.
  • Serve as a baseline indicator against which environmental changes can be identified.
  • Preserve for future use and enjoyment the character and values of this designated wilderness.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has been studied since the early 1940s, serving an international role in research, conservation, and education. Accordingly, in 1976, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the monument as a globally important biosphere reserve that is representative of the natural Sonoran Desert ecosystem. Then in 1978, the U.S. Congress designated the Organ Pipe Cactus Wilderness, which comprises approximately 94% of the monument. The monument's Sonoran Desert basin and range landscape includes dramatic mountains and valleys, eroding bajadas or slopes, alluvial fans, and magnificent specimens of columnar cacti. It is also significant because of the cultural resources that are found within its boundaries which reflect the long, widespread and varied presence of diverse human groups, including those of Native American, Mexican, and Anglo origin.

Located in southwestern Arizona along the U.S./Mexican Border, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has experienced unprecedented levels of border related activities in recent years. Understanding and responding to the effects of such sustained levels of activity on trust resources is currently the focus of much of the monument's management efforts. In addition, the monument continues to implement a variety of long-term programs including among others: an ecological monitoring program; recovery of numerous threatened and endangered species; treatment of invasive species; and diverse cultural resource management actions. A summary of many of these programs is presented here.

Map of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Map of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Map of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Location of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southwestern Arizona

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Last Updated: June 19, 2017 Contact Webmaster