Congress' efforts to convert the tallest sand dunes in North America into a Colorado national park and wildlife refuge took a big step Wednesday with a private conservation group buying a huge ranch next it.
The Nature Conservancy said it is spending $31.28 million to purchase the 97,000-acre Baca Ranch and two 14,000-foot peaks in southern Colorado, next to Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve. The ranch's plentiful aquifer keeps the 750-foot-high dunes intact and nourishes the San Luis Valley's farmers and ranchers.
The conservation group's purchase prevents the land from being sold to someone else. Once the deed is turned over to the federal government, the 38,700-acre monument and the ranch, including Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point, will become Great Sand Dunes National Park.