The Wicklow Mountains National Park is to be expanded, Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring has announced.

Almost 2,000 hectares of land in the Dublin Mountains will be bought by the National Parks and Wildlife Service from the National Asset Management Agency and added to the Wicklow park.

The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs announced today that it had reached an agreement to buy part of the Dublin uplands, in an area known popularly as the Featherbeds.

The parcel of land, which runs from Kippure to Glenasmole valley, takes in two reservoirs and is in large part a special conservation area, with peaty slopes and a mixture of trees and shrubs.

The land has been in private hands for some time and recently came on the market with an asking price of €2.5m.

Concerns were immediately voiced by conservationists and locals, worried that a wind farm could be erected in the area.

Over 20,000 signatures were gathered in a petition opposing the sale by NAMA to anyone other than the State. Mr Ring did not reveal the price paid but said NAMA acted in the "national interest".

Mr Ring said it will mean that the national park in Wicklow will be nearly 22,000 hectares in total, making it one of the biggest national parks in Europe.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said it was "great news for the country".

Grazing, turbary (the right to cut turf or peat for fuel) and shooting rights for farmers still had to be negotiated, he added.

In a statement, he said the "acquisition by the State is a sign of our enduring commitment to preserve our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and visitors alike to enjoy".

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that retaining the land "is a significant national as well as local development, which has widespread public support".

He said it was a "once in a lifetime chance to protect a large area of the Dublin Mountains for the hundreds of thousands of walkers and nature lovers who value the uplands as one of the great things about our capital city, and we're glad that sense has prevailed".

The party said it presented a petition to Government last week calling for the lands to be retained in public ownership.

Mr Ryan added: "Nothing will change immediately with respect to the site, in terms of land access etc, but we now have certainty, and a real opportunity to develop this area into one of the finest attractions in the country."

Mark D'alton, chairman of the Dublin Mountain Initiative, has welcomed the purchase.

"I think it's the common sense solution. It's a piece of land with very limited development potential but great recreational potential for the people of the country."