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Agua Fria National Monument Proclamation
U.S. Department of the Interior,
Section 2 of the Antiquities Act, 16 U.S.C. § 431, authorizes the President to establish as national monuments "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States...."
Objects of Historic or Scientific Interest
The Agua Fria National Monument is located in central Arizona approximately forty miles north of central Phoenix. The 71,100 acres of federal land comprise two mesas (Perry Mesa and the adjacent, smaller Black Mesa), the public land to the north of these mesas, and the Agua Fria River Canyon. Elevations range from 2,150 feet above sea level along the Agua Fria Canyon to about 4,600 feet in the northern hills.
The map appended to the Proclamation sets out the boundaries of the land reserved for the monument. The outer boundaries of this area encompass 72,500 acres, of which 71,100 are federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The remaining 1,400 acres are privately owned. There are no state owned lands within the boundaries.
The Proclamation describes objects in the area that warrant protection as a national monument. The monument contains one of the most significant systems of late prehistoric sites in the American Southwest. Its ancient ruins offer insights into the lives of those who long ago inhabited this part of the desert southwest. Between A.D. 1250 and 1450, the area's pueblo communities were populated by up to several thousand people. At least 450 prehistoric sites are known to exist within the monument area and there are likely many more. There are at least four major settlements within the area, including Pueblo La Plata, Pueblo Pato, the Baby Canyon Ruin group, and the Lousy Canyon group. These consist of clusters of stone-masonry pueblos, some containing at least one hundred rooms. In addition, there are many intact petroglyphs, as well as remnants of prehistoric agricultural features. The monument also contains historic sites representing early Anglo-American history through the nineteenth century, including remnants of Basque sheep camps, historic mining features, and military activities.
In addition to its rich record of human history, the monument contains outstanding biological resources. The diversity of vegetative communities, pristine riparian habitat, topographical features, and relative availability of water provide habitat for a wide array of sensitive species and other wildlife.
The area included in the monument is relatively isolated and rugged. Currently, the federal lands in the area are used primarily for scientific study, primitive recreation, and livestock grazing.
In the last few decades, the area has received increased recognition as an outstanding archaeological resource. The majority of public land in the area was acquired around 1990 from the State of Arizona and in two private exchanges. The area contains most of a National Register of Historic Places District. Originally designated in 1975, the District was expanded in 1996 to encompass approximately 50,000 acres managed by the BLM and the Tonto National Forest. It is one of the largest prehistoric districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area also contains all of the Perry Mesa Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), designated in 1987 to protect its cultural resource values. It also encompasses the Larry Canyon ACEC, which was designated in 1987 to protect a rare, pristine riparian deciduous forest within a desert ecosystem. The documentation supporting the nomination to the National Register and the ACEC designations identified many objects of scientific and historic interest within the monument area.
Increased recreational use of the monument associated with the burgeoning human population and urban expansion of the Phoenix metropolitan area poses a threat to the archaeological and biological resources of the area. Illegal excavation, artifact collecting, and other activities have damaged archaeological sites, some significantly, and remain a continuing threat to their integrity. Despite damage to some sites, there is abundant scientific information to be gained from the monument. Protective measures will help preserve the remaining research potential of this archaeologically rich area.
Land Area Reserved for the Proper Care and Management of the Objects to be Preserved
The Antiquities Act authorizes the President, as part of a declaration of a national monument, to reserve land, "the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected." 16 U.S.C. § 431. The area reserved has been carefully delineated, based on a thorough review of available information, to meet the goals of effectively caring for and managing the objects in perpetuity.
The area includes the archaeological, historic, and biological objects identified in the Proclamation. The area of the monument is based on the conservation needs of these objects, some of which are present throughout the entire monument area and others of which are scattered within it. Many objects also overlap. Much of the scientific value of the archaeological objects has been retained because they have remained relatively undisturbed and unchanged. Preservation of them requires, among other things, protection of land surrounding them in order to maintain the relatively remote conditions that have made their continued existence possible.
Protection of land surrounding the archaeological objects is also important to preserve the relationships between objects. Current archaeological research suggests that the settlements throughout the monument interacted with one another for defense purposes. The area is intended to protect the totality of sites and agricultural systems in the area, allowing study of the interactions and relationships among these elements. Reservation of the aggregate area is necessary to protect the entire network of these sites. The same is true for biological objects such as vegetative communities and wildlife species that rely upon the larger ecosystem, including the vital Agua Fria riparian system.
Even if it were possible to disaggregate the area, management of a patchwork of reserved lands would be impractical, as it would make it more difficult to care for the objects, reduce options for natural resource management and lead to inconsistent resource management standards for overlapping resources. Such a fragmentation of the monument would endanger many of the objects, undermine the purposes of the monument itself, and create substantial impediments to effective management of the monument. In short, reservation of a smaller area would undermine proper care and management of the monument.
LEGAL EFFECTS OF THE PROCLAMATION
There are several significant aspects of the Proclamation. First, it reserves only the federal lands in the area, because the Antiquities Act applies only to objects of historic or scientific interest "that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States...." 16 U.S.C. § 431.
Second, the Proclamation is subject to valid existing rights. Thus, to the extent a person or entity has valid existing rights in the federal lands or resources within the area, the Proclamation respects their rights. The exercise of such rights could, however, be regulated in order to protect the purposes of the monument.
Third, the Proclamation appropriates and withdraws the federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument from entry, location, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, including but not limited to withdrawal from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing, other than by exchange that furthers the protective purposes of the monument. This withdrawal prevents the location of new mining claims under the 1872 Mining Law, and prevents the Secretary of the Interior from exercising discretion under the mineral leasing acts and related laws to lease or sell federal minerals within the boundaries of the monument.
Fourth, the Proclamation reserves, subject to valid existing rights and as of the date of the Proclamation, sufficient water to fulfill the purposes for which the monument is established.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE MONUMENT
Management by the Bureau of Land Management
The federal lands in the area described in the Proclamation are currently under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior. BLM manages the land pursuant to its basic organic authorities, the primary one being the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq.).
The Proclamation keeps the area under BLM management. This keeps the management of the federal land under the BLM's existing authorities, but subject to the overriding purpose of protecting the objects described in the Proclamation. The establishment of the monument thus constitutes an overlay on the management regime otherwise applicable to lands managed by the BLM; it limits the management discretion that the BLM would otherwise have, by mandating protection of the historic and scientific objects within the national monument.
Impact of Monument Designation on Existing or Planned Activities in the Area
Currently permitted livestock grazing (including water impoundments and similar range
improvements), hunting, fishing, and similar activities:
Use of existing rights-of-way (such as those established under R.S. 2477 or Title V of FLPMA): The area covered by the Proclamation has very few roads; those that exist are primitive and tend to be rough and rutted much of the year. Use of existing rights-of-way will generally be subject to the same standards as described in the preceding paragraph. In some cases existing rights-of-way may include valid existing rights. The exercise of such rights may be regulated in order to protect the purposes of the monument, but any regulation must respect such rights.
Off road vehicle use:
Activities on private land:
Mining claims/oil and gas leases:
Sunset at Perry Tank Creek Canyon
Photo courtesy Phil Bigelow
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 13, 2006