Protecting Colorado’s Natural Treasures (11/24/00)

Protecting Colorado’s Natural Treasures

November 22, 2000

Today, President Clinton signed S. 2547, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act, protecting a spectacular Colorado landscape shaped by sand, water, and wind. The area is among the most biologically significant areas in Colorado, where 700-foot high sand dunes rise against the backdrop of the rugged, snow capped Rocky Mountains. President Hoover established the area as a national monument in 1932, which was later enlarged by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. President Clinton’s action today establishes the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the adjacent Great Sand Dunes Preserve to ensure continued protection and public enjoyment.

Preserving a Natural Treasure

The Great Sand Dunes, together with the associated sand sheet and adjacent wetlands and uplands, contain a variety of rare ecological, geological, paleontological, archaeological, scenic, historical, and wildlife components. The area’s serenity and rural western setting enhance its beauty, and provide extensive opportunities for education, research, and recreation.

The President’s action today protects a diverse collection of dune plants, including Indian rice grass, scurf pea, and the prairie sunflower; and animals, such as golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, mountain bluebirds, kangaroo rats, ground squirrels, and mule deer. In addition, the legislation will help protect rare archaeological sites that tell of nomadic hunters dating back 11,000 years, and the largest known stand of ponderosa pine trees in the United States bearing ancient tribal markings.

A New National Park and Preserve for Continued Protection and Enjoyment

Currently, the Great Sand Dunes National Monument covers approximately 38,000 acres in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado. This area includes only the dunes themselves, which, at over 700 feet in height, are the tallest in North America. However, they are only one part of a natural system that includes the sand sheet, surrounding watershed, and underground aquifer, all of which contribute to the water flow and sand replenishment that maintains the dunes. Expanding the boundaries of the national monument to include the entire natural system, as provided for in S. 2547, will help to ensure the long-term preservation of the dunes.

The President requested, and Congress provided, $8.4 million in this year’s budget towards the acquisition of the 100,000-acre Baca Ranch, which adds to Great Sand Dunes National Monument the size and diversity necessary to establish the Great Sand Dunes National Park. In addition, the legislation establishes the Great Sand Dunes Preserve adjacent to the national park through a land transfer from the Forest Service. The National Park Service also will administer this preserve, which will remain open to hunters.

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