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Sand dunes saved! (Earth News).

GOOD NEWS for nature lovers: Thanks to a massive land-preservation effort, Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve is primed to become the nation's 58th national park by 2005. The deal hinges on the Nature Conservancy's purchase of Baca Ranch, 151 acres of pristine land bordering Great Sand Dunes. If sealed, the deal will end a decade-long battle between farmers and land developers for the ranch's 457-meter (1,500-foot)-deep aquifer, a natural underground water supply stored in layers of permeable rock.

Scientists say the aquifer needs protection since it plays a critical role in preserving the land's spectacular 229-meter (750-foot)-tall sand dunes, formed 12,000 years ago by raging winds. The underground water supply feeds streams and wetlands that help keep the dunes from blowing away. "Protecting that water is critical to protecting the dunes," says Carol Sperling at the National Parks Service.

The park-to-be is also home to more than 70 rare plant and animal species, including the Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle (see photo, left) found nowhere else in the world! Ready for a new national hangout?
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Author:Masibay, Kim
Publication:Science World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 8, 2002
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