You may or may not have recently seen that President Trump recently issued an Executive Order setting up a review of the use of the Antiquities Act to create national monuments since 1996. Bookending this EO are two national monuments created with paleontological resources explicitly called out in their proclamations; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. These two monuments alone protect around 3 million acres of public lands with rock records that span virtually all of the history of vertebrate life on land. Their status as monuments has allowed scientific research to flourish (as in the case of GSENM) or is poised to allow scientific research to flourish (as is the case in BENM). This of course ignores the countless other scientific discoveries made in the nearly two dozen other monuments created under authority delegated to the president by the Antiquities Act; for our purpose here we are going to be focusing on the two monuments in Utah created since 1996 that include paleontology resources in their proclamation.
|Map showing GSENM and some of its paleontological resources, created by David Polly for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology|
|Utahceratops gettyi skull from GSENM. Figure from Sampson et al., 2010|
|Map showing BENM and some of its paleontological resources, created by David Polly for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology|
|The oldest vertebrate tracks from Comb Ridge, BENM. From Gay et al., 2017.|
Which brings me to the point of this blog. If you love science. If you love fossils. If you love public lands. You need to make your comments heard. This is especially important considering the comment period for Bears Ears is only open until May 26th, a ridiculously short period of time for people to comment!
|Screenshot taken from https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001 at 9:32 AM MDT, 5/20/17|
Once the site is back up and running this evening (if all goes according to schedule), please leave a comment in support of science and continuing protection for paleontological resources within BENM and all national monuments. I've included a draft of my comments if anyone is looking for a starting point.
Comment site: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001
Dear Secretary Zinke,
I am writing today in order to express my support for the national monuments currently under review by yourself and the Department of the Interior at the behest of President Trump. Not only do national monuments form a vital part of our nation's public lands, they provide meaningful and desperately needed protections for irreplaceable, scientifically valuable, and nationally significant paleontological specimens and research. Above and beyond what protections public lands have in place for fossil specimens, national monument status conveys additional scrutiny, and funding for research, education, and protection. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has produced dozens of scientifically important specimens since the monument was proclaimed in 1996; Bears Ears National Monument will do the same. Already scientists like myself are unearthing, studying, and publishing on amazing discoveries from within the monument. Reducing or rescinding the national monument status for BENM will irreparably hurt scientific efforts in the region and exposes these unique traces of the ancient past, that we all share as part of our national natural heritage, to damage and destruction by people who do not see a reason or find value in preserving and understanding the past. Fossil tell us about extinction and how environments change over time; the only evidence we have of many of these vast climatic shifts comes from the fossil record, including the Triassic-Jurassic transition within Bears Ears. I am calling on you and the Trump administration to fully support BENM and all other national monuments to the fullest extent and respect their existing boundaries under the authority they were proclaimed by powers vested in the President by Congress.
Robert J. Gay, paleontologist and educatorPlease take the time and leave comments in support of our national monuments and paleontology within them.