Greater Canyonlands Archives


  • October 15th, 2014

    Today, October 15th is National Fossil Day! We celebrate it with the acknowledgement that as a repository of scientific discovery, Greater Canyonlands holds a treasure trove of found and yet-to-be-found paleontological secrets.

    Nasutoceratops, Natural History Museum of Utah, photo by Lukas Panzann

    Nasutoceratops, Natural History Museum of Utah, photo by Lukas Panzann.

    The geologic formations that dominate southeastern Utah are known for harboring numerous dinosaur tracks and bones, ancient fossilized plants and marine invertebrate. But a lack of resources means that much work remains to find even more. Missing puzzle pieces that could be found in Greater Canyonlands may provide answers to outstanding scientific questions, such as:

    • How did ancient sea life evolve to life on land?
    • What did those first land-dwellers look like?
    • Did it happen in southern Utah?
    • For dinosaurs, what sizes, shapes and types left traces behind?

    Paleontological potential exists in Greater Canyonlands in two main time periods (although many periods are present): the late Jurassic, around 140-160 million years ago, and the Permian, around 250-300 million years ago.

    The Jurassic is known for meat-eating dinosaurs such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus, and large plant-eaters such as Apatosaurus and Diplodocus. Permian creatures of the late Paleozoic era are before the age of dinosaurs, and include Tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates) that hold keys to understanding how life emerged from the seas to land. The fossilized remains from both periods are largely still in the ground in Greater Canyonlands, awaiting discovery and research.

    Apatosaurus, Wikipedia, public domain.

    Apatosaurus, Wikipedia, public domain.

    Dinosaur tracks are also found in Greater Canyonlands, and the area around Moab has the highest density of known tracks in North America. We know this through casual observation and discovery by curious hikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts who happen to stumble across ancient footprint impressions in the sandstone as they venture in the backcountry. While these amateur finds are sometimes reported, many times they are not.

    Interpreting important remains, luckily found through non-scientific discovery, is no way to conduct systematic research, but a dedicated program that emphasizes science, and one that attracts full-time paleontologists is a breakthrough waiting to happen.

    When we attain knowledge of how earth’s creatures from millions of years ago acted, walked, reproduced, ate and lived, we can learn know more about ourselves and the world we currently inhabit.

    Greater Canyonlands is an educational opportunity we have yet to take advantage of. Digging fossils is the dream of children everywhere. Nobody needs reminding that kids dig dinosaurs and fossils. We’ve all been there, and our kids are currently as fascinated with the remains of these ancient earth creatures as we were.

    University students are fascinated too. Jason Dillingham of Snow College in central Utah described his excitement about dinosaur digs in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument “I think it’s a big adventure for me, personally. I think it’s pretty awesome. It’s amazing.”

    Even adults get into the fun, as Jeanette Bonnell, an amateur scientist and dinosaur enthusiast with Utah Friends of Paleontology, recently said “The experience of finding your first fossil is indescribable.”

    After President Clinton signed the 1996 proclamation that set aside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, funding flowed to research. This funding is what made possible the finds of Nasutoceratops titusi or Big Nose horned dinosaurs, and others, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

    Similar scientific finds are possible in Greater Canyonlands, but we need the courage to place a higher importance on scientific research in the area, rather than let it be squandered for the short term profit of fossil fuels that would otherwise be emphasized.

    A proclamation for Greater Canyonlands that supports public land agencies to focus on research and science is critical to unleashing this potential – without it, we may never know what’s out there, because there isn’t the direction or the money to look.

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  • September 23rd, 2014
    Paleoindian Images from Secrets of the Past

    Click image to learn more

    12,000-year-old encampments of ice age mammoth hunters.  Ghostly, life-sized figures staring down from towering sandstone cliffs.  Hundreds upon hundreds of stone ruins clinging to canyon walls.

    These are just some of the remarkable artifacts that make Greater Canyonlands a treasure trove of scientific and historical knowledge.

    Tell President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands and its extraordinary historical resources.

    Today, SUWA and the Greater Canyonlands Coalition have released a new publication, “Secrets of the Past in a Rugged Land.”

    Written by noted archaeologist Jerry Spangler, the publication takes the reader through the 12,000 years of human history embedded in Greater Canyonlands, offering highlights of the artifacts left behind by ancient inhabitants.

    Making the “archaeological case” for proclaiming Greater Canyonlands a national monument, the publication calls for presidential action to protect the area’s cultural treasures from harm.

    On our website, you can read the publication (opens in PDF) or watch a slideshow featuring highlights from the publication.

    Then, send President Obama an email asking him to protect Greater Canyonlands to preserve this irreplaceable outdoor museum.

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  • September 23rd, 2014
    Secrets of the Past (cover image)

    Click image to view and download booklet.

    12,000-year-old encampments of ice age mammoth hunters.  Ghostly, life-sized figures staring down from towering sandstone cliffs.  Hundreds upon hundreds of stone ruins clinging to canyon walls. These are just some of the remarkable artifacts that make Greater Canyonlands a treasure trove of scientific and historical knowledge.

    Today, SUWA and the Greater Canyonlands Coalition have released a new publication, “Secrets of the Past in a Rugged Land.” 

Written by noted archaeologist Jerry Spangler, the publication takes the reader through the 12,000 years of human history embedded in Greater Canyonlands, offering highlights of the artifacts left behind by ancient inhabitants.

    Making the “archaeological case” for proclaiming Greater Canyonlands a national monument, the publication calls for presidential action to protect the area’s cultural treasures from harm.

    Click here to read the publication (opens in PDF) or watch a slideshow featuring highlights from the publication, below. 

Then, send President Obama an email asking him to protect Greater Canyonlands to preserve this irreplaceable outdoor museum.

    Slideshow
    Hover over the image to view caption. Click on the right arrow to advance.
     

    For media inquiries, email Terri Martin.

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  • September 16th, 2014

    This past Friday, more than 150 residents of Moab turned out at the historic Star Hall for an evening with the Greater Canyonlands Coalition to talk about Greater Canyonlands: The Next 50 Years.

    The event started out with a reading by author Terry Tempest Williams.

    Terry Tempest Williams reads at the Greater Canyonlands Coalition 50th Celebration in Moab, Friday, September 12, 2014. Photo: Tim Peterson

    Terry Tempest Williams reads at the Greater Canyonlands Coalition 50th Celebration in Moab, Friday, September 12, 2014. Photo: Tim Peterson

    And was followed by a special preview of the film Our Canyonlands, produced by filmmaker Justin Clifton in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust.

     

    The evening ended with a panel discussion moderated by SUWA’s Mathew Gross and featuring Emily Stock of Canyon Country Rising Tide; Walt Dabney, former superintendent of Canyonlands National Park; and Grand Canyon Trust Executive Director Bill Hedden.

    Mathew Gross moderates a panel discussion with Emily Stock. Bill Hedden, and Walt Dabney pn Friday, September 12, 2014 at Moab's Star Hall. Photo: Tim Peterson.

    Mathew Gross moderates a panel discussion with Emily Stock. Bill Hedden, and Walt Dabney pn Friday, September 12, 2014 at Moab’s Star Hall. Photo: Tim Peterson.

    During the question and answer period, a number of Moab locals voiced support for the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument, for which support in Moab is higher than often expected.

     

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  • September 12th, 2014
    Gooseneck Overlook, Canyonlands National Park.  Copyright Ray Mathis.

    Gooseneck Overlook, Canyonlands National Park. Copyright Ray Mathis.

    Get ready for some celebrating—Canyonlands National Park is turning 50 today! That’s 50 years of gorgeous sunsets, tranquil hikes, and family exploration in one of the wildest, most beautiful parts of the United States—all thanks to a handful of Americans who had the foresight to recognize Canyonlands as one of Earth’s treasures, and sought to protect it from degradation.

    Thank goodness for them.

    But the work begun 50 years ago is not yet done. While we love Canyonlands, the boundaries of the park do not reflect the totality of the place, and much of what deserved protection was abandoned on the cutting room floor. Already, Big Flat, just north of Canyonlands, is under siege as more and more drill rigs mar its wild vistas. What’s next? Lockhart Basin? Labyrinth Canyon? The Dirty Devil corridor?

    We can’t let that happen. Ask President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands now!

    Together, we can finish the job begun by our predecessors by protecting the rest of Canyonlands—Greater Canyonlands—from the development of dirty fuels and rampaging off-road vehicle abuse. President Obama, like many great conservationists before him, should use the Antiquities Act to designate Greater Canyonlands a national monument, thereby safeguarding the plethora of special places, priceless cultural artifacts and wild rivers that still exist there, unprotected.

    Be a part of the next chapter for Greater Canyonlands by writing to the president today!

    Together, we can ensure that the next celebration is even bigger, and even better.

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