Reports emerged over the weekend that a hugely significant dinosaur tracksite near to Moab in Utah had been damaged by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) contractors as they attempted to build a raised concrete and rail walkway at the site.
The Mill Canyon dinosaur tracksite was opened as a visitor attraction in 2016. The location features more than 200 dinosaur tracks representing at least 8 different types of dinosaur, a record of activity close to a water source some 112 million years ago (Albian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous). Over the weekend, reports emerged on social media that a Bureau of Land Management project to replace the wooden boardwalk with a more robust structure had encountered problems. It has been alleged that a mechanical digger had driven over the exceptionally rare trace fossils and damaged as much of 30% of the site.
Cease and Desist
It has been reported in the media that the Center for Biological Diversity (based in Tucson, Arizona), sent a cease-and-desist letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office, requiring the agency to halt the destruction with immediate effect.
Commenting on the alleged damage, Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin Director at the Center for Biological Diversity stated:
“I’m absolutely outraged that the BLM has apparently destroyed one of the world’s most important paleontological resources. This careless disregard for these irreplaceable traces of the past is appalling. It really calls into question the Bureau’s competence as a land-management agency.”
Last year, the Bureau of Land Management approved an environmental assessment to replace the existing boardwalk with a raised concrete-and-steel trail. The document explained that any risks to the dinosaur tracks would be mitigated by flagging sensitive areas and providing “onsite inspections during construction.” Photos shared on social media show a mechanical digger left on the site, tyre tracks damaging dinosaur prints and a rare crocodilian resting trace”.
The cease-and-desist letter documents the destruction of these rare artefacts and states that the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 has been violated. Furthermore, the Bureau of Land Management may also be in breach of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act for neglecting to adhere to project approval protocols.
A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur expressed dismay at this development and went onto state:
“We have blogged about fossil thefts and vandalism to very important palaeontological sites, many of our posts relate to sites in Utah. It is extremely sad to have to write about this very unfortunate incident. Let’s hope that any damage that has occurred can be mitigated and this extremely significant trace fossil site continues to enjoy the protection that it deserves.”
To read Everything Dinosaur’s original post about the opening of the trackway to visitors: New Dinosaur Track Exhibit Opened.