After a four-year effort to acquire a 280-acre parcel from a private property owner, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is set to expand on the park's west side. The monument can now accept the land from the private donor after a bill granted federal approval. Because of a 6,000-acre ceiling, the park and other participants in the project needed to take congressional action to expand the monument’s acreage limit to 6,300 acres.
According a report from the Palmer Land Trust, which helped facilitate the transfer, the additional land will provide a buffer that will help improve fire mitigation efforts, allow more wildlife protection, and expand hiking trails.
"This parcel doesn't have what Florissant Fossil Beds are really well known for. It doesn't have any fossils or prehistoric activities," says Amber Shanklin, the Conservation Director at Palmer Land Trust. "But it gives access from the western side of the park, which is really important for the work that the park wants to do with forest health."
The added land will allow for more intact, non-fragmented ecosystems, according to Shanklin.
Participants in the effort to transfer the additional land included the former superintendent of the national monument, Michelle Wheatley, the Coalition for the Upper South Platte and The Palmer Land Trust.
Shanklin says the private donor first expressed an interest in transferring the land in March 2015.
"A couple of bills were submitted [in Congress] over the past few years but they died in committee or just didn't make it as far as we were hoping," she says.
The bill that finally granted the parcel federal approval was tacked onto a recreation conservation bill and signed by the president this past March. It was sponsored by Republican Congressmen Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, as well as now-governor Jared Polis, a Democrat.
The Department of the Interior is taking final steps to accept the parcel, meaning the expansion should be finalized within the calendar year. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the monument, with select free days available to the public on August 25th, September 28th, and November 11th of 2019.