Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

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.

Assorted green flora of the Chaparral.
Chaparral abundance.

NPS Photo.

Palo Alto Battlefield, located in the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, was designated a National Historical Park to commemorate the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park was created to recognize an important historical event, but it also protects many natural resources. Park boundaries are drawn around more than 3,400 acres of undeveloped land. The park contains an abundance of plant and animal life—including many species unique to the U.S-Mexico border region.

The park's defining feature is the broad coastal prairie—scene of the first battle of the U.S.- Mexican War. It stretches to the east for miles toward the Gulf of Mexico, interrupted only by scattered trees, yuccas, and prickly-pear cactus.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2013

In order to better understand the natural resources and processes present in this national historic park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted and published in 2013. Representatives from the National Park Service and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota collaborated to determine park needs and available data. This team chose 18 resource topics to evaluate:

- Open prairie community

- Butterflies

- Tamaulipan brushland

- Amphibians

- Resaca wetland and riparian community

- Reptiles

- Breeding birds

- Texas tortoise

- Raptors

- Air quality

- Coyotes

- Water quality

- Collared peccary

- Viewshed

- Wild cats

- Soundscape

- Native rodents

- Dark night skies

Many resource topics were not given condition ratings due to lack of historical data, lack of current data, or lack of a clear understanding of reference data. Four of the resource topics were given a condition rating: Tamaulipan brushland (good condition), air quality, viewshed (moderate concern), and dark night skies (significant concern). Many of the concerns in this park stem from the lack of data. Some of these data gaps are being addressed by monitoring programs put in place just before this assessment. This additional research will aid managers to better understand the health, integrity, and trends of these resources.

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: June 28, 2022


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