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N.M. Fossilized Tracks Gain Protection


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N.M. Fossilized Tracks Gain Protection
1 hour ago 

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A federal agency's decision not to renew a mining
permit for a rock quarry near Las Cruces will better protect a repository of
pre-dinosaur era fossil tracks.

"Our sort of new focus is on trackways protection and trying to reclaim this
mine site so the trackways are preserved," said Tim Sanders, assistant
manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Las Cruces district.

The BLM decided not to renew the six-month permit held by Raul Villa because
of increasing interest in protecting the 280 million-year-old trackways.
Permian-period trackways of insects, amphibians and reptiles are found in
sedimentary rocks throughout the Robledo Mountains.

Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici have co-sponsored legislation to
designate 5,367 acres in those mountains as a national monument. The
boundaries of that monument did not include the rock quarry.

Villa's permit expired Aug. 24, Sanders said. That decision closed the

Fossils within 50 acres of the quarry on the southern edge of the Robledos
have been damaged over the years, although most of the fossils on thousands
of acres in the Robledo area are undisturbed.

"They finally did it," said Jerry MacDonald, an amateur paleontologist from
Las Cruces who discovered the Paleozoic-era trackways in 1987.

"What it does is it gets rid of the mixed message that was, by intent or
not, being sent by the BLM, the fact that you could have the world's most
important Paleozoic track sites and then have a working quarry breaking up
trackway material for people's walls and floors," MacDonald said. "It just
didn't make sense."

Villa, however, said he was disappointed.

The permit had allowed him to take out 2,000 tons of rock per month. Villa
said the quarry employed about 10 workers and that 20 others were employed
building walls around Las Cruces with the material.

The boundaries of the proposed national monument include areas popular with
off-road vehicle enthusiasts, and off-road groups have fought the proposal.
Members of four-wheel-drive groups in the Las Cruces area said last year the
layer in the Robledos lacks enough exposed fossils to warrant the
designation, and that existing BLM protections are enough.

Supporters of the monument have said fossil tracks are being pillaged
despite the BLM's protection. They also say the thousands of fossils should
be more accessible for public view, which would occur if the site became a

Samples from the Robledo trackways are housing at the Smithsonian
Institution's Natural History Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los
Angeles County and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in

Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com 

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