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Petrified Forest expands with addition of ranch

Petrified Forest expands with addition of ranch

The U.S. government is gaining control over an even larger expanse of rainbow-colored petrified wood, fossils from the dawning age of dinosaurs and petroglyphs left by American Indian tribes who once lived in eastern Arizona.
The National Park Service secured the first major private ranch within the Petrified Forest National Park boundaries on Thursday, capping off negotiations that began years ago with the help of a conservation group.
Scientists say they're eager to explore the more than 26,000 acres (10,500 hectares) that have remained largely untouched and discover even more treasures.
"The opportunity to actually go out into an area that hasn't been worked before by other researchers, the opportunity to find things that are truly new to science _ there's a very good chance of that, so it's pretty exciting," said Bill Parker, a paleontologist at the park. "I think we're definitely going to be able to find some things that are new out there that are really going to enhance the story of the park."
Congress expanded the boundaries of the park in 2004 from 93,500 acres (38,000 hectares) to about 218,500 acres (88,000 hectares) but did not immediately appropriate any money to buy the private inholdings.
The funding for land purchases came years later through a federal land protection program. The Park Service now has acquired about a third of the 120,000 acres (48,500 hectares) it wants, with the most significant acreage coming from a transfer of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land and Thursday's $8 million purchase of the Paulsell Ranch within the park boundaries.
Petrified wood is scattered throughout the undeveloped ranch land south of Interstate 40 where cattle haven't grazed for years.
The Park Service expects to spend a few years doing inventory on the land before it decides how the public can best enjoy it, Parker said. Some 630,000 people visit the park each year.


Updated : 2021-05-11 07:26 GMT+08:00