National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Chapter 4 - Key Issues and Challenges for Consideration in Management Planning

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

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument remains an important conservation area within the Sonoran Desert Region of North America. The monument preserves a rich mosaic of cultural and natural resources that collectively represent the area's vibrant history. In collaboration with its many partners, the NPS continues to strive to understand, monitor and preserve these important resources for their continued enjoyment by present and future generations.

The monument conserves the geo-physical processes and biological communities that together form the natural, undeveloped, and untrammeled Organ Pipe Cactus wilderness. Monument monitoring results reveal that diverse taxonomic groups, indicative of the Sonoran Desert, such as columnar cacti, rodents, birds, lizards, and snakes remain stable. There are causes for concern, however. The effects of climate change, for example, though still undetermined, may dramatically alter the Sonoran Desert as we know it. A number of exotic, invasive plants and animals already have a foothold in the monument and the NPS needs to remain diligent in its efforts to limit their continued expansion. The status of endangered species occurring in the monument varies. The endangered lesser long-nosed bat is currently doing well, able to forage among the monument's abundant stands of Saguaro and Organ Pipe cacti. The endangered Quitobaquito pupfish is similarly doing well, although the Quitobaquito spring and pond system it depends upon has revealed a level of vulnerability that we only partially understand. The management actions that the NPS has implemented at Quitobaquito in recent years are temporary in nature. Ultimately, it will be necessary to develop more permanent measures, in consultation with our diverse partners and stakeholders, in order to stabilize the system and assure the continued survival of the Quitobaquito pupfish and other species of conservation concern. The critically endangered Sonoran pronghorn still occurs in the monument; its numbers remain extremely low however, and its future is far from certain. Numerous and diverse Sonoran pronghorn recovery actions are being developed and their implementation is ongoing.

All monument resources are affected, in one way or another, by the current high levels of border-related activity. It is within this context that the monument continues to provide visitors with opportunities to experience the history and natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Issues related to the international border have obviously affected the park in profound ways, and direct and indirect impacts associated with border-related activities are found throughout the monument. The complex circumstances that currently exist at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument present numerous and diverse management challenges. Responding to the resulting issues requires considerable time and effort. Law enforcement efforts have understandably been expanded. Overcoming obstacles like limited access to certain regions within the monument adds an additional layer of complexity to field work. Today, monument staff dedicates an enormous amount of time towards addressing border-related issues. This re-dedication of effort has made the continued implementation of long-established monitoring and management programs more challenging. By now, however, the monument has revisited each of its programs and adjusted them in consideration of current circumstances. The continued success of many of these programs is dependent upon finding ways to maintain data continuity and the robustness of each monitoring program's design in light of the monument's current reality. The following is a list of key monument issues that require continued consideration:

  • Ensuring visitor, employee, and resident safety
  • Safety zone management; within the monument certain areas are managed differently as determined during periodic safety assessments
  • Continued implementation of a full range of Visitor and Resource Protection action
  • Addressing diverse and ongoing impacts from border-related issues
  • Continuous engagement with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on diverse border-security initiatives
  • Seeking reevaluation of the 2006 MOU between Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture and Interior
  • Finding ways to compensate for diversion of staff time and funding from other duties due to the influence of diverse border issues
  • Preparing for possible plans to expand AZ State Hwy 85 to 4-lanes and 24-hr point of entry
  • Monitoring the influence of climate change
  • Continued management of Quitobaquito, and important perennial desert water source
  • Continued involvement with multiple partners regarding recovery of the critically endangered Sonoran pronghorn
  • Continued close collaboration with tribal and international counterparts regarding diverse Sonoran desert conservation issues
  • Improving wilderness character by preventing and restoring border-related impacts within designated wilderness
  • Invasive species management
  • Continued implementation of a robust long-term ecological monitoring program
  • Land acquisition relating to a private land inholding near Lukeville, AZ, two state inholdings, and a park expansion to the north which would permit the development of needed NPS and homeland security support infrastructure
  • Addressing housing, administrative space, commuting, and quality of life issues, etc. in support of staff retention
  • Addressing the deterioration of historic cultural resources, which is occurring faster than they can be maintained
  • Improving our understanding of the effects and rates of natural processes, vandalism, looting, etc. on cultural sites

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Last Updated: June 19, 2017 Contact Webmaster