Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

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.

Frost covers the cottonwood trees and grass in the picnic area on a foggy day.
Sand Creek in February.

NPS photo/Teri Jobe.

On November 29, 1864, a troop of 675 U.S. Volunteer soldiers attacked a village of Cheyenne and Arapahoe American Indians, killing around 230 primarily women, children and elderly. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site commemorates this tragic and controversial event in American history. Protection of native biological resources, including animals, is integral to preserving the cultural landscape. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is primarily composed of shortgrass prairie and sage shrubland. Sand Creek, an intermittent stream, crosses the site. Shortgrass prairies support numerous animal and plant species, including federal and state listed endangered, threatened, and candidate species.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2013

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes present in this site, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was conducted and published in 2013. National Park Service representatives discussed park needs and available data, and chose 14 resource topics to assess:

- Viewshed

- Air quality

- Night sky

- Geology

- Soundscape

- Surface water quality

- Groundwater

- Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus)

- Riparian habitat

- Rare vertebrates

- Grasslands

- Landbirds

- Exotic plants

The landscape scale resource topics for this assessment included viewshed, night sky, and soundscape. Overall, these resources were in relatively good condition. The supporting physical environment resource topics included air quality, geology, groundwater, and surface water. Air quality was given a rating of moderate concern, but the other topics were not given a condition rating due to data gaps. The resource topics related to vegetation include grasslands, riparian habitat, and exotic plants. All of these were in very good condition, including exotic plants. Finally, the wildlife resource topics included landbirds, prairie dogs, rare vertebrates, and aquatic invertebrates. Condition for landbirds is good, however, in early 2010 the sylvatic plague decimated the prairie dog colonies in and adjacent to the Historic Site. Rare vertebrates and aquatic invertebrates were not given a condition rating due to data gaps.

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: February 25, 2022


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