More on the Picket Wire Canyonlands takeover

If you’re concerned about the military appropriation of an important fossil site, here’s more information. It’s not just some old rocks, it’s a historical and ecologically significant site that’s about to be overrun by a bloated military.

The Picket Wire Canyonlands hold not only the largest dinosaur track site in North America, but the ruins of the Dolores Mission, its graveyard, the ruins of an early ranch, and Native American petroglyphs. The historical, scientific and archaeological value of the canyon cannot be overstated. It is simply priceless and, because entire towns and families are about to vanish, it has been somewhat overlooked. I think it’s time to champion both causes — no expansion into the fragile shortgrass praries of the Comanche Grasslands, no expansion into the Picket Wire Canyon, and no expansion into the ranches and towns that have occupied this region for 150 years. The best way of stopping the expansion altogether is to gain the support of the presidency, and the only way of doing that (since the current president is as amenable to reason and argument as a petrified cabbage) is to get through to the current candidates.

There are also lots of useful links at that site to give you more background.


  1. Faithful Reader says

    We need R.A. Lafferty here– “For All Poor Folks at Picketwire” and “Narrow Valley” ought to do it.

  2. Sean says

    historical and ecologically significant

    What do these two claims mean?

    Is there a significant historical event which occurred at the site?

    Is there something unique about the grass at the site?

    Ok, me thinks I might go to this well too often, but it might gain someone’s attention.

    When I discuss abortion with prolifers, it takes only a few seconds or a couple posts, depending upon the medium, before they trot out the mediagenic images of beating hearts, tiny feet and clenched fists. This is dishonest. They are not opposed to only abortions taking place during this stage of development, but know that this is an effective image that plays well in Peoria. If you are opposed to abortion, tell me why you oppose abortion period. Do not play emogames with a limited subset of the issue.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I doubt you would support the expansion of a military site no matter the location. Is there a site on the planet for which you would not find some furry little animal, gnarled tree or blade of grass to be labeled significant? Is there a site on the plant for which you would not find that someone had previously passed, through, built upon or buried a corpse?

    Argue the point you actually believe in, and not what you believe can score you points among the general public.

  3. says

    Thanks for the link PZ. I owe you.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I doubt you would support the expansion of a military site no matter the location.

    You’re wrong. Military expansions are generally welcome in Colorado, and they’ve been the bulk of our economy here since the founding of Ft. Carson. We have the Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, and NORAD to name a few. Fort Carson will be expanding here in Colorado Springs as well, and we’ve been nothing but accomodating. Dissolving entire towns and incorporating the largest dinosaur track site in North America goes too far.

    historical and ecologically significant

    Meaning that they’d belong in museums if they weren’t still attached to the canyon. The petroglyphs in the canyon are hardly understood. Nobody even knows how old they are. And if you’d like to know what’s so special about grass, there are a lot of scientists on these boards who can attest better than I can to how little prarie is left in the west. The long-grass praries are gone altogether, and the Comanche Grasslands are some of the only shortgrass praries that haven’t been wrecked by over-grazing. In any case, to answer your question:

    According to the Federal Government’s own Draft Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands Land Management Plan, of December 21, 2005: More than 80 percent of the Canyonlands has been inventoried for heritage resources. Over 500 archeological sites have been documented that span approximately the past 11,500 years. Approximately 54 percent of these sites are considered significant and eligible to the National Register of Historic Places … The uniqueness of the Canyonlands owes primarily to its prehistoric sites, which have remained almost completely undisturbed. The excellent preservation and high-density of Late Prehistoric (A.D. 100-1450) sites — with features such as domestic architecture, rock art, and middens with thousands or even tens of thousands of discarded tools and food refuse items — makes this an ideal area for future research on the geographical, cultural and temporal relationships of a long-term Late Prehistoric community in southeastern Colorado.

    That’s what “historical and ecologically significant” means.

    So which is it that you think is dishonest? That I don’t want the artifacts to be destroyed? That I don’t want the ranchers to be destroyed? That I don’t want the towns to be destroyed? That I don’t want the fossils to be destroyed? That I don’t want the burial sites to be destroyed? That I don’t want the mission to be destroyed? That I don’t want the homesteads to be destroyed? Or is it that I don’t want the petroglyphs to be destroyed?

    Is it dishonest that I think that these deserve to be open to the public because very little has been done to study them?

  4. Sean says

    Woah woah. The word dishonest was in no way intended for someone I do not know personally nor have knowingly read a single post from. I wanted to know if PZ would ever support a military expansion at any site.

    If you value the ecology and artifacts on this site, then I wish you good luck in your cause. I know not about this issue well enough to strongly advocate for or against the expansion, but am having doubts at some of the information being spread.

    What is your source for entire towns being disolved? The claimed magnitude of the expansion is substantially higher according to the antiwebsites I have perused. Their numbers do not match those from the military, but also those from third party organizations which specialize in monitoring military affairs. ( being one of my main sources)

    Have you looked at how the military has handled the grassland under their current control? They do not appear to be utilizing scorched earth tactics and are winning environmental awards for their management of the site. Is there any reason to expect this to change after the expansion?

    The age when the military used historic landmarks as bombing points is sixty years ago. They currently seem to be spending substantial time and resources to be careful stewards of the land under their control at the existing Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.

    Anecdote time. A couple decades ago there was a proposed expansion to the Owyhee Range where I lived in southern Idaho. There was quite the vocal and organized opposition. They used the same general arguments of unique ecology and historical significance as being used currently in Colorado. I knew many people involved in that movement and can state, without exeception, every single one of them was antimilitary across the board well before the expansion fight. I did not come across a single member of their organization who entered the fight with any degree of preexisting love for any biological or cultural feature of that terrain. A cute little antelope fawn was a very effective proxy in their preexisting antipathy towards the military.

    That left a really foul taste in my mouth. These people were making arguments which they themselves did not give a rat’s ass about in order to further other goals. That, I call dishonest and want to know PZ’s opinion on the subject. Do the ends justify the means?

  5. Chi says

    The (reasonable) way to stop the construction is to suggest an alternative viable site, or assent to the enlargement of some other one nearby. As far as cash-generation goes (my zeroth order proxy for importance), I don’t see much there.

  6. Steve Judish says

    Me and my friend Tim hiked the canyon yesterday (February 2, 2009). We make it as far as the cemetery before turning back (impending darkness). We will get back to see the dinasaur tracks. What a fantastic and undisturbed place. We even “stumbled” upon two areas of rock art. When a thorough study of this area is made I suspect this site will eventually be known around the world. A true labatory awaits someone out there. That said – if the military gets hold of this area then much will be forever lost. A note to hikers – at 55 years old with a bum leg this hike “kicked my butt.” Take water and leave early. The first part of the hike drops you into the canyon and the rest of the trail is pretty much flat – but eventually takes it’s toll. It’s worth it though! Enjoy.