The Holbrook Arizona Journal reports that the National Park Service bought the surface rights but not the mineral rights for over 26,000 acres of the privately owned Hatch Ranch lands to add to Petrified Forest National Park. The park and the ranch lands are underlain by one of the largest potash deposits in the nation, which is being actively explored for potential development. [right, AZGS's thickness map of potash deposit in Holbrook basin. Petrified Forest NP boundaries in blue (park lands) and green (expanded boundary surrounding private and state lands)]
According to the paper,
[Park Superintendent] Brad Traver said the park has purchased the surface rights to the Hatch Ranch only; the park does not own the mineral rights to the land, which leaves the door open for the Hatch Family Limited Partnership to enter into mineralization agreements with any of the potash operators currently exploring the area for future mining.
Principals of the Hatch Ranch could not be reached to learn of their plans for the property’s mineral deposits.
No maps of the acquired lands have been released yet but the paper described them as:
The Hatch Ranch is located south of Interstate 40 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The ranch begins east of Puerco Pueblo and Blue Mesa, excluding section numbers 11, 7, 1, 31 and 29, to the east and north of Puerco Pueblo; and sections 19, 31 and 33, east of Blue Mesa. A few sections of the ranch are located south of the railroad to the west of Newspaper Rock, including sections 7, 8, 19, 30, and a portion of 31.Congress expanded the park boundaries in 2004 but never provided funds to acquire the private or state trust lands within the new boundaries. Since then, the value of the potash under the lands has soared, which in turn has tripled or quadrupled land prices in the area. About a quarter of the potash underlies national park lands and another quarter is under the private and trust lands within the expanded park boundaries. We estimate the value of the potentially recoverable potash at current prices as hundreds of billions of dollars.