As a popular destination for Americans for generations, it may come as a surprise that not all of the land in and around the park is saved for public enjoyment. The Conservation Fund has helped expand Petrified Forest National Park (PFNP) by 25 percent – and we’re not stopping there.


Paleo dig at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

In 2011 we helped the National Park Service add 26,000 acres to the park. The lands were previously privately owned and managed as ranchland by the Hatch Family Partnership. These lands now connect areas already managed by the state of Arizona and the National Park Service.

Working with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), we purchased 4,200 acres in January 2013. The National Park Service then utilized the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—America’s premier conservation program—to acquire the property at the end of the year. Known as the McCauley Ranch, the property lies east of the historic remains of Puerco Pueblo and will connect lands already protected within PFNP.

During the summer of 2013, researchers unearthed a well preserved, two-foot- long phytosaur skull, a distant ancestor of the modern crocodile, on the McCauley Ranch property. They also uncovered a new find for Petrified Forest National Park, a Doswellia, which is a close relative to the phytosaur. A rich layer of fossil material was identified below the bones that could be the bottom of an ancient pond. Continued excavation will help to determine the pond’s ecosystem and identify the kinds of prehistoric fish, amphibians, reptiles and plants that once lived there.


Our work at Petrified Forest National Park helps ensure that the park continues to provide significant economic benefits to local communities and businesses through tourism. It also secures many fossil-producing sites that have already shown to be ideal locations for exciting new paleontological discoveries. Since these lands had been privately owned they were off-limits to collecting until their addition to the park.