Conservation Through the Ages
Any discussion of conservation must include the consequences of human impacts. Management of natural resources is vital to conservation efforts within the Beaver Creek watershed, which serves as an example of a semi-arid watershed where managers are trying to balance growth with conservation. As such, it has been named a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Among the many issues that affect natural resource management in the watershed are drought, fire, and invasive species. These natural resource management issues can be traced throughout the history of habitation in the Beaver Creek area.
Conservation has been an integral part of long-term habitation in the Beaver Creek Watershed dating back to the Sinagua Indians that lived in the area from about 800 A.D. until about 1425 A.D. Many researchers believe the Sinagua may have been forced to leave the Beaver Creek area due to a combination of extreme flood/drought conditions, land use practices, and possibly cultural upheaval. Archaeological evidence suggests the Sinagua experienced high soil salinity, a consequence of large-scale agricultural irrigation practices. The Sinagua also may have significantly reduced local beaver populations, both to prevent the destruction of Sinagua irrigation works and to utilize the beaver as a food source. A significant reduction in the beaver population would have had a major impact on the Beaver Creek ecosystem (Phillips 2003).
An example of Sinagua petroglyphs from the V-Bar-V Heritage Site
Though we do not have much direct evidence of what caused the Sinagua's demise, we have enough evidence to suggest that the wise management of natural resources, particularly water, land, and plant and animal populations, was crucial to their existence in the semi-arid Beaver Creek area. In an already unpredictable flood/drought ecosystem, mismanaging any one of these resources could tip the scales unfavorably and, on a human time scale, irreparably. Take a tour of the Sinagua Circle to learn more about this fascinating culture.