For Immediate Release,
January 31, 2022
SALT LAKE CITY— The Center for Biological Diversity sent a cease-and-desist letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office today urging the agency to immediately halt the destruction of irreplaceable paleontological resources at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite near Moab.
Over the weekend reports emerged on social media that a BLM project to replace the boardwalk at Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite had gone awry. A backhoe had driven over and destroyed as much as 30% of the paleontological resources at the site, according to the reports.
The Bureau calls Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite “one of the most significant early Cretaceous [dinosaur] tracksites in the world.” It features more than 200 dinosaur tracks preserved in sedimentary rock, representing 10 distinct species of dinosaur.
“I’m absolutely outraged that the BLM has apparently destroyed one of the world’s most important paleontological resources,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center. “This careless disregard for these irreplaceable traces of the past is appalling. It really calls into question the Bureau’s competence as a land-management agency.”
In 2021 the BLM approved an environmental assessment to replace an existing boardwalk at the site with a raised concrete-and-steel trail. The document said any risks to the dinosaur tracks would be mitigated by flagging sensitive areas and providing “onsite inspections during construction.”
Photos of destruction at the site shared on social media show that dinosaur tracks and other sensitive paleontological resources were not flagged. The photos depict a backhoe left on site, tire tracks crushing dinosaur tracks and a “crocodilian resting trace.”
The cease-and-desist letter notes that destruction of these resources violates the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009. The BLM may also be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act for failing to adhere to project approval documents.
“The BLM must immediately halt the destruction of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite and take steps to stabilize the site, protect these prehistoric treasures and prevent further harm,” said Donnelly. “Paleontological resources are a critical link to the past that help scientists shed light on today’s biodiversity. It’s essential that our land managers do everything possible to protect them for future generations.”