Natural Resource Condition Assessments for El Morro 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.

A view of El Morro across a sweeping landscape vista.
El Morro National Monument.

NPS Photo

On an ancient east-west trail in western New Mexico rises the great sandstone promontory of El Morro. Over the centuries, those who traveled this trail stopped to camp at the shaded oasis beneath these cliffs. They left the carved evidence of their passing -- symbols, names, dates, and fragments of their stories -- on the rock. While small in area (1,278 acres), El Morro National Monument is home to a variety of flora and fauna, as well as an array of geological and astronomical wonders. In addition, the soil in the monument is often composed of a living, fragile soil crust known as cryptobiotic soil.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2016

In order to better understand the natural resources and processes in the monument, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted, and published in 2016. The assessment was a collaborative project between NPS and cooperators from Utah State University, University of West Florida, and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative. The team chose nine natural resource topics to evaluate:

- Viewshed

- Historic Pool

- Night sky

- Vegetation

- Soundscape

- Exotic plants

- Air quality

- Wildlife

- Geology

The landscape scale resource topics included viewshed, night sky, and soundscape. The viewshed and night sky resources were in good condition, given the fact that the monument is located in a rural setting. However, New Mexico State Highway 53 bisects the park, contributing to a moderate condition rating for soundscape. The monument’s supporting physical environment resource topics included air quality, geology, and historic pool. The condition for each of these resources varied between moderate for air quality and geology, and significant concern for the historic pool, which has been highly altered from its original hydrologic condition.

The biological integrity resource topics included vegetation, exotic plants and wildlife. The vegetation resources were in good to moderate condition, even though exotic plants were considered to be of significant concern. The wildlife condition was unknown due to lack of recent data to assess current condition. Information resulting from the assessment is used by park managers for a variety of resource planning and comprehensive park management purposes.

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 16, 2022


  • Site Index