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University of Pittsburgh obtains fossil-filled land gift



Pitt Given Wyoming Ranch Full of Fossils By DAN
NEPHIN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 59 minutes ago
 
A Wyoming rancher with no connection to the University
of Pittsburgh has given the school 4,700 acres of land
littered with dinosaur fossils.

The university plans to maintain the land, valued at
$7 million, for students and researchers in geology,
archaeology and other disciplines. The university
plans to team up on programs there with the University
of Wyoming and Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural
History.

"They have a real gem out there," said Mary Dawson, a
paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum who visited the
ranch several years ago. The land is "littered with
fossils."

Allen Cook of Wheatland, Wyo., said he was getting
ready to sell part of his ranch and decided to donate
land to the university after an appraiser put him in
touch with Alec Stewart, dean of the university's
honors college and the appraiser's graduate school
classmate.

"The amazing thing is that Cook, who had absolutely no
connection with the University of Pittsburgh, had
decided that we would be good stewards for this
treasure," Stewart said Tuesday.

The 57-year-old rancher said the university's interest
"seemed kind of in line with what I'd like ? that the
land would be preserved."

Cook bought the ranch about 40 miles north of Laramie
in the 1980s and said it had long been grazing land.
He still owns about 92,000 acres. Stewart called Cook
"a quintessential Westerner, a straight-talker whose
handshake means a lot to him. But he also loves his
land."

The university's honors college already has a program
on the other side of Wyoming, where students explore
the geological, ecological and cultural dimensions of
Yellowstone National Park.

Stewart has been out to scout the property, which is
five times as large as New York City's Central Park.
He called it an "American treasure," noting that it is
largely undisturbed and contains fossils, Indian
artifacts and interesting geological features.

"It's got all the 'ologies,'" Cook said.