The stunning gypsum sand of New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument has intrigued and inspired generations of visitors since it opened in 1933. But you can bet things are about to get a whole lot busier because last Friday White Sands officially became our nation’s newest National Park! The changes come as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 signed by President Donald Trump late last week, and grants the US military a portion of land originally designated as part of the national monument. In exchange, it turns the remaining monument land into our 62nd national park, preserving it for future generations, and notably eliminating the missile testing which previously limited visitor access.
“Our staff is very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” said White Sands National Park Superintendent Marie Sauter. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities, and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.”
The star of the park, a 275-square-mile gypsum dune field, is the largest of its kind on Earth and includes a wide variety of unique plants, animals, and ecosystems. It also boasts a rich geological history, and “the globe’s largest collection of Ice-Age fossilized footprints,” including samples from creatures like Columbian mammoths, giant sloths, and dire wolves.
The change from a national monument to a park is sure to increase the number of visitors to this wonderful place, and thus increase the funding to preserve it, which is good news all around. Changes are estimated to be completed by the spring of 2020, but the park will remain open throughout the process.
We look forward to visiting this national park for the first time soon, and hope you do the same!