Ironwood Forest National Monument
President Clinton today signed a proclamation creating the Ironwood Forest National Monument in southern Arizona. The 129,000-acre monument contains rich stands of ironwood trees, which can live more than 800 years, and a stunning diversity of bird and animal life well adapted to the high, rugged desert country.
A Rich Desert Landscape. The new monument is 25 miles northwest of Tucson, in a landscape swathed with the rich, drought-adapted vegetation of the Sonoran Desert. Elevations range from 1,800 feet to about 4,250 feet above sea level. Stands of ironwood, blue palo verde, and saguaro blanket the monument's lower elevations beneath the rugged Silver Bell, Ragged Top, and Waterman Mountains. The geologic and topographic variability of the monument contributes to its high biological diversity. Ironwood trees are the dominant nurse plant in this region, and the Silver Bell Mountains support the highest density of ironwood trees recorded in the Sonoran Desert.
The ironwood habitat in the Silver Bell Mountains is associated with more than 674 species, including 64 mammals and 57 bird species, and several species listed as threatened or endangered. The area contains historic and potential habitat for the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. The desert bighorn sheep in the monument may represent the last viable population indigenous to the Tucson basin.
With the continuing urban expansion of southern Arizona, protecting critical wildlife habitat and preserving these rich stands of ironwood are of paramount importance.
Managing the New National Monument. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the monument includes the Waterman Mountains Area of Critical Environmental Concern and the Silver Bell Resource Conservation Area.
History and Process. The Pima County Board of Supervisors forwarded a resolution to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in March 2000 seeking national monument designation for the area. The Secretary has toured the area and discussed the proposal with the Pima County Board of Supervisors and members of the community. The Tohono O'odham Nation and the Pinal County Board of Supervisors have also supported the monument's creation. Secretary Babbitt recommended to the President last month that the area be designated as a National Monument.
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