Ice Age Fossil Unveiled at Proposed National Monument Site

Date:   December 2, 2010
Contact:   Lynn Davis, Nevada Field Office Program Manager, NPCA: 702-281-7380

Ice Age Fossil Unveiled at Proposed National Monument Site

Las Vegas, NV. - A scientific team of paleontologists and geologists today unearthed a six- to seven-foot Columbian mammoth tusk on the northern outskirts of Las Vegas.   Nevada’s elected officials and community leaders, along with media sources, were given opportunity to see the Ice Age fossils in an area that is slated to become a new national monument managed by the National Park Service.

America’s newest national monument is likely to be located within 30 minutes of the neon lights of the famed Las Vegas Strip.  In an arid desert wash now dotted with scrappy salt brush remain thousands of fossils of Ice Age Columbian mammoths, massive bison and American lions, camelops (a larger version of today’s Bactrian camels), sloths the size of small sports cars, and at least two species of ancient horse.  

Scientifically documented, Tule Springs is significant for the vast span of time the fossils represent.  Fossils and fossilized pollen in the area span 7,000 to nearly 200,000 years ago, offering important insight into at least two Ice Ages and multiple warming and cooling periods.  A scientific team from the San Bernardino County Museum has mapped and chronicled thousands of Ice Age fossils in the area.

“The Las Vegas Valley is fortunate to be home to these amazing fossils, which tell us about the earth’s history,” says Jill DeStefano, president of Protectors of Tule Springs.  “We expect to establish this location as a model urban national park - a destination that attracts visitors and scientists from around the world, and that serves as a unique classroom for our local schools.”

Enthusiasm for Tule Springs National Monument is inspired by Southern Nevada’s tourism-dependent economy.  In a competitive world, where gaming has become increasingly popular, community leaders recognize the appeal a national park unit adds to tourism marketing.   According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, approximately 15 percent of the 37 million visitors to Las Vegas report visiting nearby national parks and national landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam.

For the past 18 months, community leaders have rallied together to support the creation of the new national monument.  In November 2009, following a National Park Service report of the site’s significance, the Clark County Commission, Mayor and City Councils of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, and the Tribal Council of the Southern Nevada Paiute Tribe unanimously passed resolutions asking Congress to legislate the new national park unit.  Since then, community leaders and citizen groups have worked to define acreage and boundaries, and have started planning the park unit’s interface with nearby urban development.

“The local communities are incredibly supportive about creating this national park in their backyard,” says Lynn Davis, program manager of the Nevada Field Office for the National Parks Conservation Association. 

Agreed-upon boundaries for the proposed national monument encompass approximately 23,000 acres at the base of the Sheep Mountain Range.  It adjoins the U.S. Fish and Wildlife-managed Desert Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states, providing options for vital wildlife corridors and habitat protection.

The area sustains four unique and imperiled plants, Joshua trees and several species of cacti, in addition to threatened desert tortoise, burrowing owls, kit foxes, raptors, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls and sage grouse. 




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