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Contact: Sarah Hervé, 928-524-6228 ex 264
(Press release from The Conservation Fund) Today, the National Park Service, the Conservation Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) celebrated the addition of 4,265 acres to Petrified Forest National Park. Purchased by The Conservation Fund in January 2013 with a substantial contribution from NPCA, the lands are full of Late Triassic resources, including rare dinosaur fossils. The National Park Service utilized the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)–America's premier conservation program–to acquire the property.
Formerly known as the McCauley Ranch, the acquired acreage lies east of the historic remains of Puerco Pueblo and connects lands already protected within the park. The protection of this property not only preserves the natural viewshed that visitors experience as they drive on the main road through the park, it also secures many fossil-producing sites that have already shown to be ideal locations for exciting new paleontological discoveries.
During the summer of 2013, researchers unearthed a well preserved, two-foot- long phytosaur skull, a distant ancestor of the modern crocodile, on the property. They also uncovered a new find for Petrified Forest National Park, aDoswellia, which is a close relative to the phytosaur. A rich layer of fossil material was identified below the bones that could be the bottom of an ancient pond. Continued excavation will help to determine the pond's ecosystem and identify the kinds of prehistoric fish, amphibians, reptiles and plants that once lived there.
"This is an important milestone in the National Park Service's joint effort with our partners to protect the rich natural and cultural landscape in and around Petrified Forest National Park," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "By helping us acquire the McCauley Ranch, our partners at The Conservation Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association have taken another important step toward fulfilling the vision Congress outlined in the Petrified Forest Expansion Act of 2004. On behalf of the American people, we thank The Conservation Fund and NPCA. This extension of Petrified Forest's boundaries will allow us to increase our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Arizona's Painted Desert environment and its archeological and fossil wonders."