Letter Claims Construction Destroys Fossils—But Reports Are Conflicting

Read story

Multiple paleontologists and scientists criticize a walkway building project located at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite in Moab, Utah; they allege that 30 percent of the site's fossilized footprints lie in ruin.

The nonprofit Utah Friends of Paleontology said on January 29th that construction crews damaged rare fossils; they also claim that no science consultants supervised project construction.

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology said in a letter to the Utah state director of the US Bureau of Land Management, "irreparable and avoidable damage...would have been avoided if qualified paleontologists had been on your staff."

The Center for Biological Diversity sent out a cease-and-desist letter. But the evidence doesn't seem to support their claim. When the New York Times confronted the center's director, Patrick Donnelly, he admitted exaggerations about fossil damage; he sent the letter as a "red flag."

"If we were to one day decide to pursue legal action, that would have been the first step," he said. "They have not necessarily owned up to the damage."

In fact, according to BLM investigators, no damage to fossils occurred. However, the BLM halted construction, maintaining their lack of fault. "At this time, we have no evidence of any damage in the interpreted area, but out of an abundance of caution, a team will be dispatched to assess."

The site contains more than 200 tracks from at least ten species of dinosaurs, including clawed raptors and crocodile ancestors. Some scientists believe these fossils to be 112 million years old.

The BLM built a wooden boardwalk in 2015. Weather damaged the structure. The BLM planned construction of a more permanent concrete and metal structure.

Still, some keep up the fight; Utah's state paleontologist disputes the BLM's assessment. "There is damage and there is no reason there should be any damage," he told the Deseret News. "It is not completely destroyed as some are suggesting, but I was pretty scared."

As the BLM pushes forward with constructing a new walkway at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite in Moab, Utah, some continue to allege the destruction of rare dinosaur fossils.

Story tags: