Friday, February 8, 2008

Help save Paleontology at Dinosaur National Monument!!

The following is a letter I have received from my friend Margaret Imhof (shared with her permission). Even the thought of "streamlining" the parks "geology, paleontology, and museum programs" make me sick. It is just another example of needless outsourcing to cut corners. Please read the letter below, and if you feel inspired, stand up and contact the people listed and remind them that Dinosaur National Monument (DINO) is 1) a public park, that your tax dollars fund and 2) that the main mission of Dinosaur National Monument is PALEONTOLOGY, which is what they want to cut back (they should be building up or at least stabilizing the program).

My other beefs with DINO's current (and past) management (along with the Intermountain Region office): First they let their main attraction, the visitors center, degrade to such a state that it had to be condemned(!), and now they want to cut out the very heart of the park. This is a park that is there due to its spectacular geology and paleontological resources. It should be the highlight of the park, not its hidden secret side.

On October 4, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation (No. 1313) that official created Dinosaur National Monument. This is one of only 14 parks that have fossils specifically mentioned in their enacting legislation (and those parks are doing far better than paleo parks in the Intermountain Region)! It states:

"Whereas, in section twenty-six, township four south, range twenty-three east of the Salt Lake meridian, Utah, there is located an extraordinary deposit of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains of the Jurassic* period, which are of great scientific interest and value, and it appears that the public interest would be promoted by reserving these deposits as a National Monument, together with as much land as may be needed for the protection thereof.....

Warning is hereby expressly given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, excavate, injure or destroy any of the fossil remains contained within the deposits hereby reserved and declared to be a National Monument or to locate or settle upon any of the lands reserved and made a part of this monument by this proclamation...." Text
from pages 32-33 can be found here

(*Jurassic was spelled Juratrias in the report; **southeast was written woutheast in the report)

So, stand up for Paleo and let them know that this is not right and we will not stand by and let them make these horrible choices that impact not only the park personnel mentioned, but the very heart and soul of the paleontology program at DINO.

ReBecca (once again, these are MY opinions, an only mine. Sorry if you don't like them!)

Hello fellow paleontologists,

Once again, the management at DINO are angling to cut the heart out of the paleo program, this time by eliminating Scott Madsen's (preparator/lab manager) and Ann Elder's (collection management) positions. This issue transcends the people whose jobs are currently at
stake: this is about maintaining those positions for future generations of qualified personnel to take over.

In the current announcement (see below, as posted on the list last night), the Park Superintendent cites a recent review of the core operations of the park as justification to "streamline the geology, paleontology, and museum programs to eliminate duplicate or overlapping responsibilities." In other words, to _cut_ positions!

Dr. Dan Chure is a qualified researcher but lacks the expertise of a preparator or collections manager; there is clearly no overlap of skills! It takes a team of multiple skills to make any paleo program work. The core review process is designed to identify the primary focus/mission of the park and the positions mandatory to support that mission. Not surprisingly, for Dinosaur National Monument, _paleontology_ was indentified as the core mission and should therefore
bolster the entire paleo program, not eliminate its heart!

The announcement also states "work will be accomplished through avenues other than full-time permanent National Park Service positions, such as partnerships with universities and museums, contractors, volunteers, etc." In other words, management plans on "outsourcing" research, preparation, and collections management, a plan they have been increasingly implementing since 2002 (the last attempt at cutting the entire program). Unfortunately, DINO is not alone in having multiple examples of the potential misfalls from this approach.

DINO has maintained an active, vibrant field and preparation program for decades incorporating, literally, years worth of work by volunteers and interns. In the process, this program has served to education tens of thousands of park visitors about what paleontology is all about as well as produce extremely significant scientific discoveries. Contributions of this nature happen when people dedicated to those missions work _at_ the park. That dynamic is what attracts volunteers and others.

Pressure from paleontologists around the world is a major reason why the paleo program at DINO continued since 2002. If the program is to continue, we need to have that same level of pressure, particularly on the higher levels of government.

I am sure this message will generate discussion among the paleo community. I see this process as one of our profession's strengths. As in other recent discussions on this list, I encourage you to come to your own conclusions about the role and action to take. If you would like more details, please contact myself or Dale Grey, President of the Uinta Basin Chapter of Utah Friends of Paleontology (

If you do have an opinion on a future of Dinosaur National Monument without any new dinosaurs (or microfossils!), then make sure to share it with the park/government officials (contact info below). Point out the CORE mission of the park is paleo and this mission can only be supported
by keeping the in-house program active.

Margaret Imhof


Ms. Mary Risser, Superintendent
Dinosaur National Monument
4545 Highway 40
Dinosaur, CO 81610

Mr. Mike Snyder
Intermountain Regional Director
National Park Service
P.O. Box 25287
Lakewood, CO 80225-0287

Ms. Mary A. Bomar
National Park Service
1849 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20240

Mr. Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20240

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