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
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
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
be running out on public access to the past as Fort Carson considers
the land for war training.
This secluded valley is home to one of North America's richest
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
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
the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Karen Edge, Fort Carson's Piñon Canyon outreach coordinator, did not
telephone calls for comment on the future of the Canyonlands.
We can always make war, but it takes a long time to make new
would hope that the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology gets involved
blocking the acquisition of this land.
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