Report from the Public Issues Committee: Dinosaur National Monument Cuts Paleontologist Positions

Title: Report from the Public Issues Committee: Dinosaur National Monument Cuts Paleontologist Positions

Author: Larry Anna, Chairman

Publication: The Outcrop, December 2002, p. 10

The following is an excerpt from an email distribution. This plea for help is all too familiar when faced with budget cuts and an apparent end to a productive and cherished tradition. The plea is an appropriate one, but it is also a method that treats symptoms rather than curing a disease. In this case the symptom is the abolishment of two paleontology positions and the treatment is to force the reinstatement of the positions. The disease, however, is the mindset that paleontology and, indeed, Earth Science does not have an immediate impact on people and the local economy. We need to get to a position where Earth Science is not an easy target for budget cuts. We need to educate officials, planners, and bureaucrats on the economic and societal benefits of our profession. We need to get to know our local media outlets — get their confidence, gain their respect, and then tell them our story and our concerns. As has been said before, there is nothing more disturbing for an official (business or government) to receive a message stating that 60 Minutes is at the door and wants to talk.

The new Superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument announced that he will be abolishing the two paleontology positions at Dinosaur National Monument because paleontology is not a significant resource issue for him. This will mean the end of a

50-year-old paleontology program which has produced the spectacular wall of fossils within the visitor center as well as abundant Mesozoic fossils from elsewhere in the Monument. The Monument will go from having an active excavation and research program on Mesozoic vertebrates to a caretaker policy, a step back to the 1930’s. Thus the premiere fossil park of the National Park Service will have no program for protecting and understanding the resource for which the Monument was established in 1915. In addition, there will be no paleontology program in the soon-to-be-built museum and exhibit facility and collections building. Does this sound right to you?

If you value the dinosaurs at Dinosaur National Monument then this is your opportunity to speak up and stop this madness. Write to the Park Service, as well as your own US senators and representatives, and ask that the paleontology program not be phased out and eliminated at Dinosaur. Ask that the Monument reinstate its research grade scientist position and continue to fully support the paleontology program, especially with the new facility being built in the next few years.

The original email is from Dr. Ken Carpenter, Curator of Lower Vertebrate Paleontology at the Denver Museum of Natural History and was sent to me via Doug Peters, 10-22-2002.