Many Voice Disapproval

The Public Weighs In …

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 the cuts.

Some examples include:

K. Christopher Beard , spokesman for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, called DNM "the flagship national park for paleontology."

Denver-based 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 like animal.

Image Caption

Steamboat Rock in Echo Park

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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 the cuts.

Some examples include:

K. Christopher Beard , spokesman for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, called DNM "the flagship national park for paleontology."

Denver-based 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 like animal.

"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.

Amy 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 Chure found.

"It's very important to me to have them out there looking for more fossils," she said.

The 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."

Alex 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."

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