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Feb 21st
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Home National & State Parks Other NPs Historic Ranch, Native American Buffalo Jump Added to Wind Cave National Park

Historic Ranch, Native American Buffalo Jump Added to Wind Cave National Park

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A thousand-year-old buffalo jump and a historic homestead will become part of South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park as part of a 5,555-acre acquisition made by the National Park Service, it was announced Oct. 6, 2011.

"We would like to thank The Conservation Fund for the critical role they played in acquiring this property," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. "Because of their help, we look forward to providing educational programs about the buffalo jump and historic ranch to area school children and all our visitors."

windcave_newtractThe Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting important places across America, acquired the property at auction for $7.6 million from the Casey family last year, and transferred it to the Park Service. This completes a process begun in 2000 when the family approached the service about selling the land to the park.

Native Americans hunted buffalo on the newly acquired land over a thousand years ago, driving them over buffalo jumps, or cliffs. The tract also features Native American tipi rings and other cultural sites.

The historic ranch property dates back to the late 1800s.

"August Sanson settled on the land in 1882," Park Ranger Tom Farrell told OldWestNewWest.com Travel & History Magazine. "His son, Carl Sanson began managing the ranch when he was 15. That was in 1916. He managed the property until 1987. The oldest out building on the property dates to 1918. We think the ranch house may have been rebuilt in 1930s after a fire."

In 2005, with support from the South Dakota Congressional delegation, Congress passed legislation to expand the park pending an appropriation to purchase the land. When the land was put up for auction by the Casey family, The Conservation Fund purchased the property to hold for the NPS until federal funding became available.

Congress appropriated the necessary funding this year from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which enables federal and state agencies to acquire lands that feature important historic, natural, scenic and economic benefits for public use and enjoyment. The fund receives significant revenue from the development of federally-owned offshore oil and gas rights.

Park staff will now start the public planning process to allow visitors to experience this new land.

This year-long process, a Visitor Access Plan/Environmental Assessment, is expected to begin later this fall and will determine, among other things, where and if hiking trails will be constructed.

Broader planning over the next year will address how to comprehensively integrate this land into the rest of the park and address whether or not any new visitor service facilities are needed and whether or not existing wildlife management plans are adequate.

"Over 100 years ago President Theodore Roosevelt had the foresight to protect Wind Cave," said Larry Selzer, President and CEO of The Conservation Fund. "Thanks to the outstanding bi-partisan leadership of the South Dakota Congressional delegation and the dedication of the National Park Service, we celebrate this achievement to preserve our nation's treasured lands for generations."

Roosevelt set aside Wind Cave as the country's eighth national park in 1903. Park headquarters are in Hot Springs, S.D.

Considered a sacred place by the Lakota, Wind Cave is one of the world's longest and most complex caves, known for its outstanding display of boxwork, an unusual cave formation composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs. It was the first cave ever designated as a national park.

On the surface, the park now features more than 30,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest that provides important habitat for bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, and prairie dogs.

It is home to one of America's most ecologically-significant bison herds, which dates back to bison relocated to the park from the Bronx Zoo and Yellowstone in the early 20th century.

A public dedication for the new land was planned for Oct. 15. Additional information concerning the dedication will be released as plans become finalized.

For more information, visit the park's Website at
www.nps.gov/wica/ .

National & State Parks