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Re: "Dinos' might in army sights"

Sad sense of deja vu hearing about the situation at Fort Carson, Colorado, where the Army plans to aquire the fossil-rich Picket Wire Canyonlands and use it for "war training" within their Pinyon Canyon Maneuver Site.

Consider what happened to the abundant remains of Titanotheres and other magnificent White River fossils in the South Unit of the Badlands in South Dakota:

Badlands National Monument was established in 1939, outside of the reservation boundary. But in 1976, the Park’s size was doubled by the controversial addition of the Stronghold Unit, (even though it was part of the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux Reservation, by treaty since 1868). National Park Service literature explains how that happened. During World War II, the US Air Force took over more than 300,000 acres of land from the reservation, land that contains abundant remains of Titanotherium and other large vertebrate fossils. Beginnign in 1942 and continuing until 1968, the Stronghold area was used as a huge aerial bombing range by the Air Force. Old wrecked cars were collected and painted bright yellow, then scattered throughout this badlands area as targets for the bombers. The Air Force also used plows to create gigantic bulls-eye targets, 250 feet across, carved into the prairie mesas.

But the favorite bombing targets were the bleached bones of huge, extinct mammals eroding out of the badlands cliffsides. This comes from the official NPS literature distributed at the Park Center about the Stronghold Unit. According to the NPS literature, the skeletons of the largest fossils in the Badlands, the elephant-sized Titanotheres (which Othniel Marsh had named Brontotheres, "thunder beasts") were very noticeable, “gleaming bright white from the air. These skeletons were commonly targeted by the bombers.” The US Air Force and, later, the National Guard gunners, deliberately blew to smithereens the fragile bones of great animals that had roamed the earth 40 million years ago. “Hundreds of fossil resources were destroyed in the bombing efforts,” according to the Park Service information sheet.

Today, the entire Stronghold Unit of the Badlands National Park is littered with dangerous live ammunition, ranging from machine gun bullets to very large unexploded bombs. This ammunition is still on the surface and buried in the dirt and continually erodes out of the cliffs where fossils emerged. Park Service officials warn that “unexploded ordnance (UXO) of all shapes and sizes” poses a grave hazard throughout the Stronghold Unit, and could detonate at any time.

On May 28, 2007, at 10:00 AM, MKIRKALDY@aol.com wrote:

Dinos' might in army sights (captioned in print version as "A frontal
assault on fossils")
By Joey Bunch
Denver Post Staff Writer

The landscape of southeast Colorado also crawls with history, but time may
be running out on public access to the past as Fort Carson considers acquiring
the land for war training.
This secluded valley is home to one of North America's richest dinosaurs
finds - more than 1,300 individual tracks; 35 sites have yielded bones.
"The great thing about this site is that it's here to see, and it's free for
the public," said U.S. Forest Service paleontologist Bruce Schumacher,
leaning against a rock after wading across the Purgatoire River - the River of
Lost Souls, as French explorers first called it.
Schumacher planted his bare feet near the beachball-sized tracks of a
brontosaurus left 150 million years ago.
"The history here is just layered on itself," he said.
But every map proffered by the Army has included Picket Wire Canyonlands in
the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Karen Edge, Fort Carson's Piñon Canyon outreach coordinator, did not return
telephone calls for comment on the future of the Canyonlands.

We can always make war, but it takes a long time to make new fossils. I
would hope that the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology gets involved with
blocking the acquisition of this land.


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