Washington, DC – The new superintendent for the Dinosaur National Monument has announced the elimination of the park’s fifty-year old paleontology program, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).Joining a cascade of criticism from scientists across the globe, PEER is calling for the reversal of the cut and the reassignment of the superintendent.
Established in 1915 in order to preserve and study an extraordinary trove of dinosaur bones, until recently the Dinosaur National Monument boasted one of the world’s premiere paleontology research programs. On October 3, after only eight months on the job, Superintendent Chas Cartwright announced a reorganization to eliminate all remaining positions in the park’s paleontology department. Based upon a stated desire to shift away from “in-house research,” this surprising move came despite:
A slight overall budget increase for the park;
Creation of a new personal secretary position for the superintendent, while adding an auto mechanic and new park ranger to the staff; and
Hiring a new wildlife biologist, range ecologist and mapping specialist while retaining current botanist and archaeologist positions.
Leading researchers from American and international institutions have written National Park Service Director Fran Mainella to express strong opposition. The scientists are particularly scornful of Superintendent Cartwright’s plan to persuade universities or other private partners to fund and operate the paleontology program.
“Superintendent Cartwright needs to have his head examined for putting this idea forward,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization represents Park Service scientists.”The current researchers bring in significant grant funding and supervise an extensive volunteer program, all of which will be lost when the Dinosaur National Monument drops its paleontology program.”
The “paleo” research program at Dinosaur has hosted an array of international symposia and published more than 150 scientific and popular papers. Utah Senator Robert Bennett is proposing the construction of a new $6 million paleontology laboratory and collections complex.