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Environmental Conditions of the Eastern Plateau Planning Area - Threatened and Endangered Species, Protected Areas and Unique Waters

Environmental conditions reflect the impacts of geography, climate and cultural activities and may be a critical consideration in water resource management and supply development.  Discussed in this section is vegetation, riparian protection through the Arizona Water Protection Fund program, Instream Flow, threatened and endangered species, public lands protected from development as national parks, monuments and wilderness and unique waters.

Threatened and Endangered Species

A number of listed threatened and endangered species may be present in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area. Those listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as of 2008 are shown in Table 2.0-2.  An “endangered species” is defined by the USFWS as “an animal or plant species in danger of extinction through-out all or a significant portion of its range,” while a “threatened species” is “an animal or plant species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Presence of a listed species may be a critical consideration in water resource management and supply development in a particular area.  The USFWS should be contacted for details regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA), designated critical habitat and current listings.

Table 2.0-2 Threatened and Endangered Species in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area

Common Name

Threatened Endangered Elevation/Habitat
Apache Trout X   >5000 ft./cold mountain streams
Bald Eagle  X   Varies/large trees or cliffs near water
Black-footed ferret   X <10,500 ft./grassland plains
California Brown Pelican   X Varies/lakes and rivers
California Condor   X Varies/high desert canyonlands and plateaus
Chiricahua Leopard Frog X   3,300-8,900ft./streams, rivers, backwaters, ponds stock tanks
Little Colorado Spinedace X   4,000-8,000 ft./moderate to small streams in pools & riffles
Loach Minnow X   <8,000ft./benthic species of small to large perennial streams
Mexican Gray Wolf   X 4,000-12,000 ft. /chapparal, woodland, forests
Mexican Spotted Owl X   4,100-9,000 ft./canyons, dense forests with multi-layered foliage structure
Navajo Sedge X   5,700-6,000ft./silty soils at shady seeps and springs
Peebles Navajo Cactus   X 5,400-5,600 ft/gravely soils of the Shinarump conglomerate 
San Francisco Peaks Groundsel X   10,900ft+/Alpine tundra
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher   X <8,500 ft./cottonwood-willow and tamarisk along rivers and streams
Zuni Fleabane X   7,300-8,000 ft./selenium-rich red or gray detrital clay soils derived from the Chinle and Baca formations

National Parks, Monuments and Wilderness Areas

The Eastern Plateau Planning Area contains relatively few federally protected areas considering its large size. (see Figure 2.0-14)  It contains one national park, five national monuments and five wilderness areas. In total there are approximately 436,600 acres of protected federal lands, accounting for 2.5% of the land area.

Petrified Forest National Park encompasses approximately 218,533 acres. Originally established in 1906 as a national monument to protect fossilized wood deposits, the addition of mostly Painted Desert land in 1932 helped to upgrade the national monument to national park status in 1962. In 1970, over 50,000 acres of the park were designated as wilderness. In 2004, an additional 125,000 acres of land were added to the park, more than doubling its size. Over 250 fossil plant, invertebrate and vertebrate sites have been identified in the park (NPS, 2008a).

Several national monuments exist near Flagstaff including Sunset Crater Volcano, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon National Monuments. The 3,040 acre Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument was established in 1930 to protect its volcanic formations.  Nearby, Wupatki National Monument was established in 1924 to preserve Citadel and Wupatki pueblos. Monument boundaries have been expanded several times to include additional pueblos and other archeological resources to a total of 35,422 acres.  East of Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon National Monument was established in 1915 to preserve ancient cliff dwellings. The monument contains a variety of archeological and natural resources on approximately 3,600 acres.



Figure 2.0-14 Eastern Plateau Planning Area Protected Areas (Wilderness Data Source: National Atlas of the United States, 2005)

Click to view Figure 2.0-14

Canyon de Chelly and Navajo National Monuments are located within the Navajo Reservation. Canyon de Chelly, located east of Chinle, was initially established in 1931 to protect the canyon’s archeological resources. At approximately 83,840 acres in size, it is unique among National Park Service (NPS) units as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land that remains home to the canyon community. The NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the Navajo community living within the monument (NPS, 2008b). Navajo National Monument, located west of Kayenta, was created in 1909 to protect 13th century cliff dwellings and other archeological resources. Currently monument boundaries include 600 acres encompassing  three distinct and non-contiguous sections, Betatakin, Keet Seel and Inscription House. Monument lands are inholdings within the reservation. Local Navajo are integral in supporting the park and participating in its activities and the monument is an important socio-cultural and economic component of the region (Rothman, 1991).

Table 2.0-3 Wilderness areas in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area

Wilderness Area Acres Description
Escudilla  5,200   (Partial) Mountain meadows and Escudilla Mountain (10,912 ft)
Kachina Peaks 18,615 (Partial) Mt. Humphrey's (11,500 ft) and only arctic-alpine vegetation in the state 
Mount Baldy  7,079  (Partial) Mixed conifers and ponderosa pine to fir and spruce.
Petrified Forest  50,260 Shortgrass prairie, colorful mesas, buttes and badlands
Strawberry Crater 10,414 Volcanic cinder cone and lava flow formations 

*Wilderness areas are within the boundaries of a National Monument

All or portions of five wilderness areas, encompassing 91,568 acres, are located within the Eastern Plateau Planning Area.  Wilderness areas are designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act to preserve and protect the designated area in its natural condition.  Designated areas, their size and a brief description of the area are listed in Table 2.0-3.  The Eastern Plateau Planning Area contains the smallest number of wilderness acres, by far, compared with any of the state’s planning areas.



Unique Waters

Two “unique waters” occur in the planning area, designated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) pursuant to A.C.C. R18-11-112, as having exceptional recreational or ecological significance and/or providing habitat for threatened or endangered species.  Surface water must be of good water quality, free flowing and perennial to be classified as a unique water. In the planning area, a portion of the West Fork of the Little Colorado River above Government Springs (located in the Salt River Basin), and Lee Valley Creek from its headwaters to Lee Valley Reservoir have been classified as unique waters.


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