Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Aztec Ruins National Monument

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

Aztec Ruins, stone walls in a desert landscape
Aztec Ruins .

Photo by Bettymaya Foott, 2017

Aztec Ruins National Monument was established in 1923 to “protect an exceptionally well-preserved great house community along the banks of the Animas River and provide opportunities for greater understanding of the evolution of the Chacoan culture." The 129 ha (318 ac) Aztec Ruins National Monument is situated along the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico in San Juan County.

The City of Aztec, New Mexico surrounds the monument. This monument has an unusually high diversity of vegetation communities and wildlife species despite its small size. Along the Animas River, at the lowest elevation in the park of 5,630 feet, riparian vegetation of cottonwoods, willows, and exotic Russian olive trees are home to a variety of birds and other animals. North of the previously farmed areas, the land rises to 5,820 feet to a terrace dominated by grasslands, pinon, and juniper trees. Irrigation never reached this upper area, but historically ranchers grazed animals here. Even so, native grasses and other vegetation are thriving among the prehistoric remains that dot this landscape.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2019

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment for Aztec Ruins National Monument was coordinated by the National Park Service staff, Utah State University, and the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit. The report for this monument was published in 2019, and included the nine natural resource topics and processes that were of greatest interest/concern to monument staff at the time of this effort including:

- Viewshed

- Night Sky

- Air Quality

- Geologic Resources

- Water Resources

- Upland Vegetation and Soils

- Birds

- Mammals

- Herpetofauna (Reptiles and Amphibians)

Most of the resources are considered to be in condition states of moderate concern, with the exception of the wildlife focal resources (birds, mammals, herpetofauna), whose conditions are largely unknown. Invasive vegetation in the monument should be managed in the future, and monitoring of plant, wildlife, and human resources should continue. Park staff and managers will continue to monitor the conditions of these natural resources, considering the threats and stressors related to each one, and look into forming partnerships to achieve management goals.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: August 15, 2022


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