Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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A look at the connection between people of the desert and federally-protected Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and how today’s border dynamics are influencing this northernmost domain of the organ pipe cactus.

Jose Cardenas: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a desert wilderness and environment that has been home to many different people throughout history. Luis Carrion reports on how today's border dynamics are influencing this piece of landscape of the Sonoran Desert.

Luis Carrion: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, located southwest of Tucson along the border with Mexico, was created as a way to preserve a unique area of the Sonoran Desert. Established through a proclamation by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, organ pipe gets its name from the comeback pus that populates the rocky soil of the area.

Tim Tibbitts: Organ Pipe is a very valuable plant. If you come out here in the summertime, anything that lives and breathes -- as an individual plant gets older --

Luis Carrion: Tim Tibbitts is a wildlife biologist at the national monument and he points out the Organ Pipe is an important component of this ecosystem.

Tim Tibbitts: The Organ Pipe comeback pus is very important to the ecology of this part of the desert. It produces a large nectar-rich flower which turns into a succulent, sweet fruit. Almost every animal out here in some way feeds on the flower or the fruit. Bird and bats, and even insects feed on the flowers to get the nectar, and that helps pollinate the cactus. And in the early part of the summer in June, when the fruits mature, it's a food bonanza because of that availability of is something that is so wet and sweet, and everything that's here feeds on that fruit.

Luis Carrion: It's clear that the fruit of the organ pipe comeback status an important food for the residents of this environment. And for human inhabitants, such as these people, this fruit provided life-sustaining calories during the who summer months.

Jesus: Next to the park we find the area where the preservation -- the reservation is found. There's a few plants, a few small populations that enter the reservation.

Luis Carrion: Jesus is a biologist and he points out to the local Native Americans, Organ Pipe National Monument was an important component of their domain. Trade routes bisect what is now the monument.

Jesus Garcia: If you go back in time many of the ancestors of the native people living in the central part of Sonora have always taken advantage of the organ pipe cactus. But then in the Mexico side, anybody can do it. Because it's public land, and people actually do it for cash. When the season comes, anybody can actually go and collect the fruit just for your own consumption and sell it to the public in the streets, and it becomes kind of a nice resource for people during the season.

Luis Carrion: The fruit can be a nice resource for the inhabitants of this area. And the monument is the site of cultural resources that reflect long, widespread and diverse occupations by American Indian, and Mexican groups. Today this northern most domain is largely defined by a human presence.

Jesus Garcia: It's the divided between the two countries, and also because being there, a port of entry is right there. Those conditions create a little bit of friction to many different levels, ecological level, political level, and social and cultural levels, because here we have all these cultures, a native American culture, we have the Mexican culture, and the Angelo European culture, all converging in that place as well. And then you have the differences between Mexico and the United States in the economic and political worlds, and it becomes a Mecca or a center of action.

Luis Carrion: The park is a Mecca of action. And access is often restricted because of illegal activity.

Jesus Garcia: If you think about the concept in the past, being this place where you would gather fruits and collect your food and eat it and enjoy it and sustain your family, per se, but now you cannot do it, because it's restricted for many reasons, but there's all this political and modern versions that are restricting the access to these areas, where before it used to be simple. It used to be the place you live, the place you basically hang out.

Luis Carrion: The mission of this federally protected land is still to preserve the signal and cultural resources of the organ pipe cactus monument. Bits clear our modern border issues have also found a place in the cultural legacy of this park.

Jesus Garcia: And unfortunately it's happening in many places around the world, really. Natural areas that sustain and provide the living for many cultures, that is becoming more restricted. In some cases because of political reasons, some cases because of lack of water, in some cases because of too much development. So we have to balance all those things and still understand the ecological concept between how the plants and animals live, understand them, so we can appreciate them and learn to live with them.

Jose Cardenas: That's our show. I am Jose Cardenas. For everyone here at "Horizonte," have a good evening. Captioning performed by LNS captioning

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