Rock in Echo Park
To say that much of the world's
paleontology community disagrees with Chas Cartwright's management
moves at Dinosaur National Monument would be seriously understating
the outcry. Scientists from all over the world have voiced their
disappointment at this decision and are asking the NPS to reconsider
Some examples include:
Christopher Beard, spokesman for the Society of Vertebrate
Paleontology, called DNM "the flagship national park for paleontology."
paleontologist Kenneth Carpenter
said the discoveries and important work conducted by the monument's
paleontologists in the last 10 years has been critical to the science.
"The superintendent seems unaware that the paleontologists at the
monument have been very active," he said, explaining that beginning
about 10 years ago, Dan Chure (the chief paleontologist) finished
up work on the quarry face itself and determined it was important
to identify resources elsewhere in the monument.
That effort has led to the discovery of several important new sites,
particularly in the last five years. At least two new dinosaurs
have been identified -- a new carnivorous dinosaur and a new brontosaurus
"These discoveries are going to have implications on our evolutionary
understanding of dinosaurs," Carpenter said.
Chure told the Washington Post he and associate Scott Madsen currently
are researching the skull of an Apatosaurus-type dinosaur dating
from the Cretaceous period 80 million years ago -- the only one
of that vintage ever found in North America. The skull was uncovered
in a different formation than the early finds at the monument.
Henrici of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History outlined
in Science magazine how research at the monument has aided her work.
She studies some of the oldest frog fossils in North America, which
"It's very important to me to have them out there looking for more
fossils," she said.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
has expressed its outrage at the cuts to the paleontology program
-- particularly in light of a slight overall budget increase for
the park and the creation of new, less essential positions such
as a personal secretary and auto mechanic.
In a letter to the NPS director, Fran Mainella, Jeff Ruch, PEER's
executive director, said, "Cartwright expresses an intention to
persuade universities and other private partners to fund and operate
the paleontology program. To PEER's knowledge, no feasibility review
of the prospects of such external funding has been performed. Distinguished
researchers point out that current funding arrangements are contingent
upon the monument's continued 'paleo' research program.
"Moreover, the current researchers bring in significant grant funding
and supervise an extensive volunteer program -- all of which will
be lost when the DNM drops its paleontology program.
"The idea of eliminating the paleontology program at DNM is so
illogical and runs so directly counter to the very purpose of the
monument that we must speak up."
Donald R. Prothero, chair and professor of geology at
Occidental College, was vehement in his opposition. In a letter
to U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), he said:
"This is almost oxymoronic -- how could you have a monument dedicated
to dinosaurs and eliminate all the dinosaur experts? Only a trained
paleontologist is qualified to supervise the continuing excavation
and research on dinosaurs in the park and to prepare the material
for public consumption.
"The decision is even more astounding in light of the fact that
the monument is building a new museum and exhibit facility. Who
would prepare the specimens and write the displays for the exhibits?
Who would train the docents and guides?
"Obviously, a dinosaur expert is required."
Ritchie, research fellow in paleontology with the Australian
Museum, wrote to Mainella:
"The mere suggestion that a unique, world-class paleontological
ecotourism facility can hope to maintain its scientific integrity
without an on-site experienced paleontological research staff is
ludicrous. If this were to be allowed to take place for short-sighted
bureaucratic or budgetary reasons, the U.S. National Park Service
will stand justly condemned by scientists worldwide for an act of
short-sighted scientific vandalism.
"There is another aspect to this -- if the great U.S. National
Park Service cannot employ dinosaur specialists on one of the world's
greatest dinosaur sites, what hope is there for less important sites?
"I suggest the U.S. National Park Service should urgently reassess
its priorities and take steps to ensure permanent on-site paleontological
research and support staff at the Dinosaur National Monument."
-- KATHY SHIRLEY