By Nick Worth
The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), completed the purchase of 4,265 acres of private land located within the borders of Petrified Forest National Park on Jan. 31.
Known as the McCauley Ranch, the newly purchased land lies east of the historic remains of Puerco Pueblo and will connect lands already protected within the park.
According to the Conservation Fund press release, the protection of the land will preserve the natural views that visitors experience as they drive on the main road through the park, enhance protection for the area’s Late Triassic resources and eventually expand opportunities for new scientific discoveries.
The Conservation Fund will temporarily hold and protect the land until it can be purchased and transferred to the National Park Service later this year.
According to the Conservation Fund, the NPCA made a “substantial contribution” toward the purchase. The two conservation entities have been working as partners for the past 10 years.
National Park Service Director Jonathon Jarvis said the purchase was an important step toward fulfilling the Petrified Forest Expansion Act of 2004.
“This is another important milestone in the National Park Service’s joint effort with our partners to protect the rich, natural and cultural landscape in and around Petrified Forest,” said Jarvis. “This expansion of Petri-fied Forest’s boundaries will increase our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Arizona’s Painted Desert environment, and its archeological and fossil wonders.”
In 2011 the Conservation Fund helped the National Park Service expand the park ownership by nearly 25 percent with the protection and addition of 26,000 acres that are considered by park scientists to be full of potential paleontological and archeological discoveries. The 2011 purchases were made possible through the use of congressionally approved funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal land protection program that receives a percentage of the proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties. The Na-tional Park Service plans to use additional LWCF monies along with a substantial private donation to complete the purchase of the McCauley Ranch lands.
Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for the NPCA, said a generous donor who wished to remain anonymous helped the two conservation groups to make the purchase.
“This acquisition is great news for both Petrified Forest National Park and the people who cherish it as a special and unique place,” said Dahl.
By Nick Worth