Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Tonto 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 cliff dwellings in a rocky desert of cacti, flowering plants, and shrubs.
A view of cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument.

NPS Photo

More than 700 years ago, a blending of native peoples forming the Salado culture settled in Tonto Basin. Situated in southeastern Arizona and created in 1907, Tonto National Monument preserves cliff dwellings and other remnants of these prehistoric cultures. Most notable are two large cliff dwellings constructed during the 14th century. The monument also protects the areas within the Tonto National Monument Archeological District along with the arid habitat of the northeastern edge of the Sonoran Desert. Natural and cultural resources within Tonto National Monument are significant to a number of contemporary American Indian tribes.

Tonto National Monument is located approximately two hours northeast of the Phoenix metro area, and is surrounded by the 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million acres) Tonto National Forest—the fourth largest national forest in the United States.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2019

Tonto National Monument lies within the Sonoran Desert ecoregion. In an effort to better understand the natural resources of the monument, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was completed and published in 2019. Staff from the National Park Service and Utah State University worked together to identify the natural resources and stressors to include in this condition assessment. The final report includes nine resource topics:

- Viewshed

- Night sky

- Air quality

- Cave Canyon riparian area

- Geology

- Upland vegetation and soils

- Birds

- Mammals

- Herpetofauna

With the exception of the air quality condition, which is considered to be of significant concern, the majority of the monument’s natural resources were found to be in good condition. However, in June 2019, a major wildlife —the Woodbury Fire—burned more than 50,000 ha throughout Tonto National forest, which includes Tonto National Monument. While the full effects of the fire’s impact to the monument’s and surrounding region’s resources are currently unknown, the fire has undoubtedly created natural resource conditions that are vastly different from those delivered in this report.

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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