GRAND COUNTY, Utah — The Bureau of Land Management is facing backlash over accusations that the improvements they are making to a historic dinosaur track site are actually doing damage.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, social media posts show that a backhoe at a BLM project at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite (near Moab) had driven over and destroyed as much as 30 percent of the paleontological resources at the site.
#MillCanyonDinosaurTracksite update: Concerned citizens who visited the site today to assess the damage have reported that about 20%-30% of the site has been damaged mostly from @BLMUtah DRIVING A BACKHOE over these rare #fossils to remove a boardwalk.#paleontology #publiclands https://t.co/Dq831iQ9td pic.twitter.com/asKTk0j4YI
— Brian Engh (@BrianEngh_Art) January 31, 2022
The center sent a "cease and desist" letter to the BLM, urging them to immediately halt the project.
Sunday, a Salt Lake County resident traveled to Moab to take photos of the damage.
“We went down yesterday and looked at the site,” said Jeremy Roberts. “It’s bad.”
He shared his photos with FOX 13 News. He says one shows track marks from a vehicle tire near one ancient dinosaur print.
Another is covered by parts of a discarded walkway.
A third photo shows one print believed to be more than 116 million years old, shattered.
“It lasted 116 million years until the BLM decided to drive on it,” he said.
In 2015, a boardwalk-style walkway was installed at the historic site to allow people to view the fossils without causing any damage to the artifacts.
An environmental assessment from the Bureau of Land Management says the boardwalk is being renovated because it is “not able to withstand the elements nor the parade of visitors.”
It adds, “A BLM representative would conduct onsite inspections during the construction to ensure that no tracks would be impacted.”
Jeremy and his 14-year-old son Kenyon, who is a dinosaur enthusiast, believe their photo evidence proves otherwise.
“The only place on earth where we have running tracks of a dromaeosaur-type dinosaur — raptors. It's devastating what they have done,” Kenyon said.
“When they ripped it out, the BLM didn't know where the tracks are and didn't understand the location,” Jeremy added.
The BLM responded to a request for comment from FOX 13 News with the following statement:
- "The Bureau of Land Management is committed to balancing resource protection and public access to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, and other public lands managed by the Moab Field Office, which continue to receive high visitation. The Moab Field Office is working to improve safe public access with an updated boardwalk that is designed to protect the natural resources of this site. During that effort, heavy equipment is on location, but it is absolutely not used in the protected area. The Moab Field Office has completed a National Environmental Policy Act analysis for this project and work is being conducted in accordance with that decision. When work resumes, it will continue to protect the natural resources."
Gov. Spencer Cox is aware of the issue. Late Monday night, his office provided FOX 13 News with a statement as well:
- “The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is a state treasure and one of the most significant early Cretaceous tracksites in the world. We are very concerned to learn of the damage there. We spoke with the Deputy Secretary of the Interior tonight and we’ve offered the assistance of our state paleontologist to protect these dinosaur tracks. We will continue to work with the BLM to do everything we can to protect Utah’s precious fossils and ancient history.”