Rare Fossils Found In Bears Ears National Monument
● By Alesha Damerville
Photo credit: Jeffrey Sullivan on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS-The fossils of three sizable crocodile-like creatures were found in Bears Ears National Monument, two months after President Trump signed a proclamation shrinking the park by 85 percent. The expedition was led by Rob Gay, paleontologist at the University of Western Colorado.
On Thursday, February 22, Gay and his team announced their discovery of these intact remains. “It is extremely rare to find intact fossil skulls of specimens from this period,” Gay said in a statement. “Based on our small, initial excavation, we believe that this 63-meter site may be the densest area of Triassic period fossils in the nation, maybe the world. If this site can be fully excavated, it is likely that we will find many other intact specimens, and quite possibly even new vertebrate species.”
“This vital area of research is threatened,” Gay said. “An inactive uranium mine is looking to expand operations into fossil-rich areas bordering Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Looting of fossil bones and petrified wood is occurring at an alarming rate. Careless recreationalists have driven over and damaged fossil sites, and target shooters have literally shot reptile jaws, over 200 million years old, into fragments.”
The future of Bears Ears is uncertain. Barack Obama designated Bears Ears a National Monument in December 2016. One year later, President Trump ordered the reversal of the proclamation. Environmental protection groups, businesses and a coalition of tribal authorities have filed a lawsuit arguing that the president’s actions to reduce the monument’s protections are unauthorized.
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