The National Park Service officially took ownership of 4,200 acres of new land for Petrified Forest last week.
The land was purchased from a ranching family earlier this year by the Conservation Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association on behalf of the park. It connects lands already owned by Petrified Forest and is one small piece of the lands Congress approved for purchase in the 2004 expansion of the park.
For years, park paleontologists have been anxious to gain access to the land, which is believed to have once held an ancient pond that was home to amphibians, fish reptiles and plants. It was previously part of the McCauley Ranch, which sits east of the park, and contains the historic remains of Puerco Pueblo.
In a tour given to the Daily Sun earlier this year, Park Service officials boasted that, in places, the new land held a fossil every four inches. Scientists were able to start work in the acreage this summer.
“This is an 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 National Park," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
The money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund comes from a percentage of offshore gas and oil royalties.
For more on the story, see Tuesday's Arizona Daily Sun.