MOSCA, Colo. (KDVR) — Great Sand Dunes National Park is growing.

About 9,362 acres of land in the neighboring Medano-Zapata Ranch has been transferred to the park, the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a Thursday news release.

“The lands being transferred to the park contain important springs and wetlands that support a rich diversity of life,” Great Sand Dunes National Park Superintendent Pamela Rice said in the release. “This acquisition marks an important step toward completing the plan for Great Sand Dunes National Park that was established in 2004.”

Oil and gas helped fund the land transfer

The transfer is part of a “longstanding partnership” between the park and environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy, which owns the transferred land, according to the department.

“Great Sand Dunes and The Nature Conservancy have built a model for collaboration that will help guarantee that future generations have access to this special place,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in the release.

The Nature Conservancy will continue to keep a permitted bison herd on the land for up to seven years while they make future plans for the operation, the department said.

The cost of the acquisition was not disclosed in a press release. Funding came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which comes from oil and gas drilling royalties.

Great Sand Dunes to get more acres in the future

The Nature Conservancy bought the Medano-Zapata Ranch next door in 1999 “and soon after developed the plan to transfer some of the acquired land for the creation” of the park a year later, the Interior Department said.

About 12,500 acres of the ranch are within the park’s boundaries. The remaining 3,200 acres will be transferred to the park in the future, according to the department.

The announcement came as Haaland, the first Native American to lead a U.S. Cabinet agency, was visiting Colorado. On Wednesday, she announced the expansion of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historical Site. The site is dedicated to the 1864 massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho, most of them women and children, by a volunteer U.S. Cavalry regiment.

Great Sand Dunes National Park: By the numbers

Great Sand Dunes National Park includes the tallest dunes in North America, according to the department, which “are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, forests, alpine lakes and tundra.”

By the numbers:

  • Established as a national monument: 1932
  • Redesignated as a national park and preserve: 2000
  • Last year’s visitor count: 603,000
  • Last year’s estimated visitor spending in the area: $41.3 million
  • Jobs supported: 530