Many of America’s national parks adjoin land that is just as worthy of protection as the areas within the park’s boundaries. This month, several national parks have taken steps to protect additional land, extending the parks’ borders to include a stretch of ocean beach, a South Dakota wilderness expanse, and boreal forest along Minnesota’s northern boundary waters.
The National Park Service (NPS) and the Trust for Public Land announced on April 24 that the two agencies partnered to purchase 58 acres of biologically diverse land in the Maho Bay area of Virgin Islands National Park. NPS director Jon Jarvis called this “a success story on a number of levels,” rescuing land from potential development and preserving an important stretch of pristine beach. The land also connects the east and west sides of Virgin Islands National Park for the first time.
The $2.25 million purchase was completed with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which gets its funding directly from fees paid to the federal government as a result of offshore oil and gas drilling.
Last week, the NPS announced the purchase of 61.55 acres of property adjacent to Voyageurs National Park. The land features boreal forest—important habitat for many bird and animal species that thrive in colder climates—and several hundred feet of sand beach on the Kempton Channel of Rainy Lake. The NPS plans to remove old buildings on the property and restore the scenic vistas that were blocked by this development. The shoreline will return to its natural state, making it prime habitat for marshland species.
The Voyageurs National Park Association made the land purchase, working with willing sellers to acquire this privately owned land. When federal funds become available for land acquisition, Voyageurs National Park will purchase the land from the association. “We appreciate VNPA being able to purchase available tracts of land and hold them until we have funds available,” said park superintendent Michael Ward in a prepared statement. “This partnership is a fantastic way to provide successes to all involved.”
Earlier this year, Badlands National Park bought 160 acres of private land in the Conata Basin, property that had been purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 2008 as part of a larger ranch that contained land inside and outside of the park. This transaction completed a plan established with the Nature Conservancy when the park was created, extending the park’s boundary to bring this land under federal protection.
“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 the opportunity to hold prescribed burns, which benefit native plants and wildlife and help rejuvenate the prairies.