June 23, 2017
The Honorable Ryan Zinke, Secretary
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Zinke,
We are writing as executive officers of The Paleontological Society (https://www.paleosoc.org ) to convey our deep concern about the ongoing review of areas designated over the past two decades as U.S. National Monuments and, indeed, in the very status of these areas as National Monuments.
The Paleontological Society is a non-profit organization that represents the interests of professional, amateur, and student paleontologists worldwide. We oppose the exploitation of fossils for financial gain, and we strongly advocate the preservation of paleontological localities. To that end, the Society actively partnered with the Department of the Interior in discussions about the implementation of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA), and we have undertaken discussions with the National Park Service about possible collaborations and recruitment of personnel to identify, catalogue, and protect fossils and fossiliferous strata in the National Park System.
When the proposal to designate the Bears Ears area of southeastern Utah as a National Monument was under review in 2016, we wrote, “Bears Ears is home to a rich array of Paleozoic and Mesozoic marine and terrestrial fossil species that are central to paleontological investigation…we respectfully request that the fossils of Bears Ears be protected from commercial collecting but that scientists continue to have the opportunity to collect and study paleontological samples from Bears Ears.”
This is also true of numerous other National Monuments. To cite but one example, colleagues at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/ ) have conveyed to us that the museum’s scientific collections include hundreds of scientifically-valuable vertebrate and invertebrate fossils collected inside the boundaries of National Monuments at Giant Sequoia, Carrizo Plain, and Berryessa Snow Mountain. Undoubtedly, the nation’s museums and other research facilities contain many thousands of specimens collected at National Monuments throughout the United States, many of which have been the bases for scientific advances and publications.
While our primary expertise is in paleontology, it is clear that the protections provided by National-Monument status have been valuable to all people who want to preserve our country’s deep historical heritage and enjoy the sheer beauty and spiritual significance of many of these landscapes.
Against this backdrop, we are distressed to learn not only of the current review of National Monuments, but especially of a recommendation made by your office to significantly reduce the size and scope of Bears Ears National Monument. This recommendation appears to have been arrived at hastily, with little opportunity for discussion by all stakeholders. Furthermore, we fear that similar recommendations are planned for other National Monuments.
The Paleontological Society stands ready to work with you constructively on safeguarding the natural resources and heritage of the United States. We ask that you reconsider the recommendation for Bears Ears and that you halt the review process until a broad range of voices is included in these deliberations.
|Arnold I. Miller, Ph.D. |
|Steven M. Holland, Ph.D.|
|Bruce J. MacFadden, Ph.D.|