‘I’m absolutely outraged that the BLM has apparently destroyed one of the world’s most important paleontological resources,’ one conservationist said
The Centre for Biological Diversity sent a cease and desist letter to the BLM on 31 January over work its doing near the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite near Moab, Utah.
According to the Idaho Statesman, the contested site was, some 112 million years ago, the site of a muddy pit. The pit was formerly a lake, which had dried up. Dinosaurs tracked through the mud as they made their way across the land, and left more than 200 footprints in the ground, which conservations fear may be destroyed by the BLM’s work.
The area was first reported to the BLM in 2009, and researchers began working at the site the following year. Up to 10 different kinds of tracks can be found at the site, according to the BLM.
“This site is the largest and most diverse tracksite known in the Cedar Mountain Formation,” the the BLM said. “Collaborative research efforts indicate that the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is one of the most significant Early Cretaceous tracksites in the world.”
The area is protected by federal law under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009, and it is illegal to remove any fossils or deface the tracks at the site.
However, when the BLM began working on a project to replace an existing wooden boardwalk near the site with colored concrete, conservationists became concerned.
The BLM planned to bring trucks into the site mere feet away from the tracks, which would be “rehabilitated” after the project.
Conservationists on social media posted photos of fossilised dinosaur prints that had been run over by a backhoe.
“The tire tracks are on the sauropod tracks,” conservationist Jeremy Roberts said on Twitter. “There is an iguanadon track there, too. They’re literally driving on these.”
According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, the backhoe destroyed 30 per cent of the tracks at the site.
Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin director at the centre, issued a news release expressing his outrage at the destruction of the priceless tracks.
“I’m absolutely outraged that the BLM has apparently destroyed one of the world’s most important paleontological resources,” he said. “This careless disregard for these irreplaceable traces of the past is appalling.”
The BLM issued a statement to Fox 13 saying it is “committed to balancing resource protection and public access” at the site.
“The Moab Field Office is working to improve safe public access with an updated boardwalk that is designed to protect the natural resources of this site,” it told the outlet. “During that effort, heavy equipment is on location, but it is absolutely not used in the protected area.”