After years of griping about national
monuments, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, wants to create one. The
ranking member of the House Resources Committee is hoping to
preserve 50 acres of Jurassic-era dinosaur tracks unearthed last
year in St. George, Utah. The tracks show uniquely sharp detail of
knuckles, tail drags and skin texture.
there's a catch.
To pay for the monument,
Hansen told the Deseret News, he'd consider
supporting a plan to dissolve two-thirds of the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument, reassigning some of the
money to St. George. "You could easily shrink Grand Staircase.
Two-thirds of it is nothing special, just mostly sagebrush," he
told the paper. "You just keep the areas that are truly special."
One patch of sagebrush that opponents say is
vulnerable is the Kaiparowits Plateau, where a coal mine was
proposed several years ago (HCN, 7/25/94). Paleontologist and
monument staffer Alan Titus says the portion of the monument
encompassing the Kaiparowits Plateau has the best known record of
terrestrial animals dated to the dinosaur age. Anything less than
monument status could be devastating for the artifacts, he says.
Hansen has not made any formal proposal to
modify the monument's boundaries or reallocate funding, and
activists say he may be bluffing.
nothing wrong with protecting dinosaur tracks, but it's a red
herring to link it with Grand Staircase," says Keith Hammond of the
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "Basically, it's a way for
Hansen to grandstand against the monument."
Hansen will hold public meetings in June on how to preserve the
dinosaur tracks in St. George.