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Wind Cave National Park to grow with purchase of 5,555 acres

This photo shows a view from the newly acquired addition to Wind Cave National Park in western South Dakota. (National Park Service Photo)1 / 2
This 1,000-year-old buffalo jump is part of the expansion at Wind Cave National Park in southwest South Dakota. (National Park Service photo)2 / 2

HOT SPRINGS -- The National Park Service announced Thursday it has acquired more than 5,000 acres of former ranchland to expand Wind Cave National Park in western South Dakota.

The 5,555 acres include a historic homestead that dates back to the late 1800s and a 1,000-year-old buffalo jump, according to the park service. Buffalo jumps are cliffs or steep banks that American Indians used to kill bison by driving the animals over the edge.

Wind Cave National Park is home to one of the world's longest and most complex caves, and its 30,000 surface acres of prairie and pine forest provide habitat for wildlife.

"The park is an important economic engine for the state, and the new site will no doubt drive more tourism to the area and be a boon to the surrounding communities," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

Congress passed legislation approving the park expansion in 2005, pending an appropriation to purchase the land. The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving America's heritage, acquired the property at auction from a family last year and held it until federal funding became available this year.

The acquisition of the land cost $8.3 million, said Tom Farrell, chief of interpretation at Wind Cave National Park.

Farrell said the homestead dates backs to 1882, when a ranch west of Buffalo Gap near Beaver Creek was established. The oldest building on the ranch dates back to 1918.

The Department of the Interior said park staff will begin a year-long assessment to determine whether new hiking trails or visitor service facilities will need to be constructed because of the expansion.

The assessment will also determine whether existing wildlife management plans are adequate.

A public dedication of the land is planned for Oct. 15.