February 24, 2012
Brian Kenner, 605-433-5260
Christopher Anderson, 612-331-0747
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Interior, S.D. -Badlands National Park has completed the purchase of 160 acres of private land located in Conata Basin. The property had been purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 2008 as part of a larger ranch that contained land both inside and outside the park. The 160 acres inside the park was held by The Nature Conservancy while the NPS worked through the administrative and financial challenges commonly associated with this type of purchase. "Despite common perceptions to the contrary, acquiring land - even land already inside the park boundary - is not as easy and doesn't go as fast as many might think," explained Deputy Superintendent Steve Thede.
The Conservancy concluded that part of its land should be owned by the park, as had been planned when the park was created, and took the steps necessary to facilitate the process. The Conservancy's ownership also enabled the property and several hundred additional acres of Badlands National Park to benefit from a prescribed burn for the first time since the park was established. The land is located in Conata Basin within the Badlands Wilderness Area and will be managed as wilderness. It will benefit wildlife and make a remote area of the park more accessible to visitors.
"Acquiring this land will allow hikers into a part of the park where we didn't really encourage visitors to go before, because access was difficult without crossing onto private property," said Brian Kenner, Chief of Science and Natural Resources at Badlands National Park. "We can now take down a fence and open that area up for public access. There's a picnic area and a trailhead nearby."
Other benefits include access for the park's bison herd with additional places to find water and graze and easier control of wildfire and prescribed burns which benefit native plants and wildlife and help rejuvenate the prairies.
"It made a lot of sense for the National Park Service to own and manage this property since it lies within the existing boundary of the Park," said Bob Paulson, Western Dakotas Program Director for The Nature Conservancy.
"We own land nearby and we use conservation grazing to ensure that it remains healthy and diverse," Paulson said. "Badlands National Park is a good neighbor and we know that the National Park Service will be an excellent steward of this property."
The Conservancy works with landowners, partners, the US Forest Service and the National Park Service to conserve Conata Basin, a 142,000-acre landscape located south of Badlands National Park and considered one of North America's largest and most intact grasslands.
Together, Badlands National Park and the Conata Basin is home to relatively large numbers of black-footed ferrets, one of the rarest mammals on the continent, as well as bison, bighorn sheep, swift fox, prairie dogs and burrowing owls.
"Badlands National Park just got bigger and better and Conata Basin remains an incredible place for both people and wildlife," Paulson said.