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Environment & Science

Paleontologists fear destruction of undiscovered fossils in Utah




Kaiparowits Plataeu
Kaiparowits Plataeu
Photo by Jeff Eaton

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If you want a peek into Earth's ancient history, you only need to look in one direction.

Down. 

First, you've gotta dig pretty deep. 

One of the best places to do that is the home to one of the richest fossil beds in the world – the Grand Staircase in Utah's Escalante National Monument

But it's a place that's also rich in coal.

It may become legal to mine for minerals in this area under the Trump administration's plan to reduce the lands protected by their national monuments status since 1996. 

And that has scientists worried

Take Two's A Martinez spoke with researcher and paleontologist Jeff Eaton of the Museum of Natural History of Utah

"The Grand Staircase is a remarkable, pristine environment – a remarkable example of high plateaus in fabulous, relatively untouched conditions, " said Eaton. "My primary concern is the destruction of the ecology, the habitat which certainly strip mining has extraordinary negative impacts upon."

Researchers value the Grand Staircase because it's the only region on Earth known to have specific periods of time preserved. That means it's the only source to observe the evolution of many species of dinosaurs and other animals, plants, geology and climate. 

 "It's a huge area," said Eaton. "There's still much to be looked at... and I'd say we've barely touched the potential of what this area has to teach us about ecosystems."

Listen to the full interview by clicking the audio player above.