In all of North America, the state of Colorado happens to be blessed with incredible public lands, and what’s even more amazing is that it’s still growing.
Just recently, a non-profit bought a nearby ranch, which was then turned over to the National Park Service (NPS) in order to expand the Great Sand Dunes National Park by at least 9,350 acres, which is approximately 3,783 hectares.
The Medano-Zapata Ranch encompasses very rich and biodiverse wetlands, which means that its transfer back to public lands will help bring the park back to its former glory.
Great Sand Dunes National Park Superintendent, Pamela Rice, said in a statement, “The lands being transferred to the Park contain important springs and wetlands that support a rich diversity of life. This acquisition marks an important step toward completing the plan for Great Sand Dunes National Park that was established in 2004.”
It was The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which happens to be one of the biggest environmental non-profits on the planet, that had actually acquired the land through a former agreement with the ranch all the way back in 1999. This year, over 20 years later, they conservatory was compensated for their member-supported purchase using money from the federal government’s Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWC). Notably, this fund also take royalties from gas and oil drilling in order to pay for these conservation projects.
The LWC, which came about over 50 years ago, has funded as much as $4 billion worth of conservation projects throughout the country, and in 2019, it was permanently reauthorized by Congress.
As for the Medano-Zapanta Ranch, approximately 12,498 acres of land is within the Great Sand Dunes National Park boundaries. As a result, TNC plans to transfer the remaining 3,192 acres to the NPS in the near future as it’s currently on a 7-year lease form the Department of Interior. This will also include a herd of bison, which has been grazing on the land for years.
It was in 1932 that the Great Sand Dunes National Park was proclaimed as a national monument. Then in 2000, it was redesignated as a national park and preserve to protect the tallest dunes in North America for current and future generations.
These dunes are an incredible centerpiece in a widely diverse landscape of wetlands, grasslands, alpine lakes, forests and tundra. Just last year, over 603,000 tourists visited to experience the extraordinary dunes and dazzling starry skies, as well as learn about the remarkable cultural history as well.
Last 2021, park visitors spent around $41.3 million in nearby regions and areas while visiting the dunes, which helped to support over 530 jobs. Hopefully, this number will be exceeded at the end of the year.
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