Sunday, September 11, 2011

Park Service land acquisition plans for Petrified Forest

The following is taken from the National Park Service's FY12 budget plan. The first part of the land acquisition of the Paulsell Ranch was just announced. It is not explicitly stated what property is included in the second phase of 21,669 acres. Another NPS budget document refers to the Twin Buttes Ranch on the west side of the park. That 64,000 acre property is under option to Passport Potash. [right, private and state trust lands inside the park boundaries are shown in pale yellow. Credit, NPS]

Fiscal Year 2012 National Park Service Federal Land Acquisition Program

Park Area: Petrified Forest National Park Priority: 4
Location: Northeastern Arizona
State/County/Congressional District: State of Arizona/Apache and Navajo Counties/Congressional District No. 1

Land Acquisition Limitation Amount Remaining: There is no limitation.

Date Acres Total Amount ($000)
FY 2012 Request 26,496 $5,475
Future Funding Needed 21,669 $6,350

Description: The Act of December 3, 2004 (Public Law 108-430), revised the boundary of the park to include an additional 125,000 acres of land, of which approximately 76,473 acres are privately owned. The act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire such privately owned land from a willing seller, by donation, purchase with donated or appropriated funds, or exchange. Since enactment, no funds have been appropriated for land acquisition in the expansion area. The Service’s budget request for 2011 includes $7,540,000 for the acquisition of a portion of the lands added to the park in 2004.

Natural/Cultural Resources Associated with Proposal: Petrified Forest National Park contains globally significant fossil from the Late Triassic Period. The park is a virtual laboratory offering opportunities for paleontological research and visitor understanding that are unparalleled. The conservation and protection of the fossil resources, especially petrified wood (critical park resource) is the reason for the original establishment of the park, while the protection of vast cultural resources (the secondary unit resource) is a major focus and the intent of later expansion legislation.

Threat: Direct threats to natural and cultural resources in the proposed expansion area include theft and vandalism of fragile and non-renewable archaeological and paleontological sites and resources. Although these occurrences are all within the parks congressionally approved administrative boundary, the park currently has no jurisdiction over these lands and therefore non-renewable paleontological and archaeological resources are unattended and subject to ongoing theft and vandalism.

Need: The requested funds will be used to acquire six tracts totaling 26,496.16 acres and comprising the Paulsell Ranch that is presently owned by the Hatch Family Limited Partnership. The ranch was added to the park in 2004 by P.L. 108-430 and is rich in archaeological and paleontological resources. The ranch contains several areas (e.g., Billings Gap) with globally significant paleontological resources that compliment those in the park and numerous historic cultural sites including rock art panels, as well as structures from the Puebloan period in the Southwest. This property also includes nine miles of the Puerco River Riparian area that provides crucial habitat for many of the species found in this area from insects and rodents to raptors and migrating elk. Federal acquisition of this property would result in greater, proactive resource protection and preservation of this significant landscape. Protective measures include vehicle, horse, and foot patrols by Law Enforcement Rangers, remote monitoring through the use of surveillance equipment, as well as site inventory and monitoring by resource management staff.

Estimated O&M Costs/Savings: An estimated $315,000 would be needed to manage and maintain this land and provide, via an agreement with the State, management of State lands currently checker boarded with NPS land.

This acquisition, in partnership with The Conservation Fund, will serve to protect riparian habitat and watershed resources and to preserve the extensive and undeveloped natural landscape.

[Thanks to Jarrod at for passing along the link to this report.]

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