Trump Plans Have Dinosaur-Lovers Distressed

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante is home to countless fossils—and 62 billion tons of coal
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2017 2:59 PM CDT
Trump Plans in Utah Could Endanger Dinosaur Discoveries
Tylor Birthisel, Alan Titus, and Jeanette Bonnell work to move plaster-encased bundles of a fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton found near Tropic, Utah. The nearly complete fossilized remains of a tyrannosaur were found two years ago in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.   (Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante contains an estimated 62 billion tons of coal. But it also has one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in the world, with more than two-dozen new species having been discovered in the 21 years since President Clinton designated it a national monument. So when Sen. Orrin Hatch said Friday that President Trump will be shrinking the 1.9-million-acre national monument, it led to a lot of distressed dino-lovers, the Los Angeles Times reports. “The research in the monument, from my perspective, has only just begun,” one paleontologist says. “The shrinking of it for what I would say are fairly petty, shallow, and short-term interests will clearly interfere with, and even potentially destroy, aspects of future research.”

While scientists say most of Grand Staircase-Escalante has yet to be explored, the Trump administration is anxious to open it to coal mining and oil drilling. Hatch says Trump specifically said he would allow mining on the million-acre Kaiparowits Plateau, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. “The volume of bone in the Kaiparowits is staggering,” a paleontologist and Interior Department employee tells the Times. While many Utah residents prefer mining to fossils—"God put coal on the Earth for a reason"—a poll released this week states 53% of Utah residents oppose shrinking the national monument, according to the Hill. Trump plans to visit Utah in December to formally announce changes to Grand Staircase-Escalante with lawsuits from various groups seeking to prevent those changes likely to follow. (Read more dinosaurs stories.)

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