Speed Reads

(possible) bad news for the environment

Scientists say shrinking national monument in Utah would hinder dinosaur discoveries

In the 21 years since President Bill Clinton designated 1.9 million acres in southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, dozens of extinct forms of lizards, frogs, birds, crocodiles, and even several dinosaurs have been discovered by paleontologists, who are afraid that under President Trump, the only thing people will be digging for in the area is coal.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, specifically the Kaiparowits Plateau, is rich with fossils, and because of the national monument's size, most of it is still untouched by paleontologists. Trump has ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to take a closer look at the major national monuments created in the last two decades, and he's proposed making Grand Staircase-Escalante smaller, and allowing coal mining, oil drilling, and mineral extraction on the land. When Clinton created the monument, Utah Republicans weren't happy, in part because it ended a proposed coal mine; there is an estimated 62 billion tons of coal where the fossil beds are.

"The research in the monument, from my perspective, has only just begun," paleontologist Jeff Eaton told the Los Angeles Times. "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." Most of the fossils that are discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante are sent to Salt Lake City's National History Museum of Utah, and perhaps that's one way to get the president interested in keeping the national monument the way it is — tell him the next dinosaur discovered will be named the Trumposaurus, and it'll be on display in front of fawning crowds in perpetuity.