Page:United States Statutes at Large Volume 115 Part 3.djvu/505

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PROCLAMATION 7397—JAN. 17, 2001 115 STAT. 2579 North American deserts, the monument consists of distinct mountain ranges separated by wide valleys, and includes large saguaro cactus forest communities that provide excellent habitat for a wide range of wildlife species. The monument's biological resources include a spectacular diversity of plant and animal species. The higher peaks include unique woodland assemblages, while the lower elevation lands offer one of the most structurally complex examples of palo verde/mixed cacti association in the Sonoran Desert. The dense stands of leguminous trees and cacti are dominated by saguaros, palo-verde trees, ironwood, prickly pear, and cholla. Important natural water holes, known as tinajas, exist throughout the monument. The endangered acuna pineapple cactus is also foxmd in the monument. The most striking aspect of the plant communities within the monument are the abundant saguaro cactus forests. The saguaro is a signature plant of the Sonoran Desert. Individual saguaro plants are indeed magnificent, but a forest of these plants, together with the wide variety of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants that make up the forest community, is an impressive site to behold. The saguaro cactus forests within the monument are a national treasure, rivaling those within the Saguaro National Park. The rich diversity, density, and distribution of plants in the Sand Tank Mountains area of the monument is especially striking and can be attributed to the management regime in place since the area was withdrawn for military purposes in 1941. In particular, while some public access to the area is allowed, no livestock grazing has occurred for nearly 50 years. To extend the extraordinary diversity and overall ecological health of the Sand Tanks Mountains area, land adjacent and with biological resources similar to the area withdrawn for military purposes should be subject to a similar management regime to the fullest extent possible. The monument contains an abundance of packrat middens, allowing for scientific analysis of plant species and climates in past eras. Scientific analysis of the midden shows that the area received far more precipitation 20,000 years ago, and slowly became more arid. Vegetation for the area changed from juniper- oak-pinion pine woodland to the vegetation found today in the Sonoran Desert, although a few plants from the more mesic period, including the Kofa Mountain barberry, Arizona rosewood, and junipers, remain on higher elevations of north-facing slopes. The lower elevations and flatter areas of the monument contain the creosote-bursage plant community. This plant community thrives in the open expanses between the mountain ranges, and connects the other plant communities together. Rare patches of desert grassland can also be found throughout the monument, especially in the Sand Tank Mountains area. The washes in the area support a much denser vegetation community than the surrounding desert, including mesquite, ironwood, paloverde, desert honeysuckle, chuperosa, and desert willow, as well as a variety of herbaceous plants. This vegetation offers the dense cover bird species need for successful nesting, foraging, and escape, and birds heavily use the washes during migration. The diverse plant communities present in the monument support a wide variety of wildlife, including the endangered Sonoran pronghorn.