Fossil find challenges mass extinction

A group of ancient Four Corners residents could be shaking up the history books. A New Mexico palaeontologist is forwarding his theory that a group of dinosaurs survived the mass extinction. The herd allegedly lived along the Colorado-New Mexico border, not far from Durango, for an additional 700,000 years.

James Fassett claims that dinosaur bones from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone of the San Juan Basin are the evidence, and he has dated them to nearly a million years after the alleged end of the reign of the reptile. The fossils belong to a group of herbivorous sauropod dinosaurs and point to the existence of a “Lost World” in the Four Corners, according to his research published in Palaeontologia Electronica. However, the findings have yet to gain traction amongst palaeontologists.  

“This is a controversial conclusion, and many palaeontologists will remain skeptical,” wrote David Polly, one of the editors of Palaeontologia Electronica. However, Polly added that birds, small reptiles and reptiles like crocodiles survived the great extinction and lived beyond the Cretaceous Period, which marked the tail-end of the “Age of the Dinosaurs.”

“One thing is certain,” he continued. “If dinosaurs did survive, they were not as widespread as they were before the end of the Cretaceous and did not persist for long.”

Fassett’s evidence includes new data that proves the specimens in the Ojo Alamo Sandstone were found in rock atop the Cretaceous strata. While it is possible for fossils to be moved by rivers, he claims no such thing happened in the San Juan Basin.

“The great difficulty with this hypothesis – that these are the remains of dinosaurs that survived – is ruling out the possibility that the bones date from before the extinction,” Fassett wrote.

Fassett analyzed the magnetic polarity of strata and pollen grains in the rock before announcing his findings. He also discovered a series of 34 bones from a single animal and dated them to the post-Cretaceous, which he claimed rules out the possibility that the fossils were relocated by natural forces.

Nonetheless, the scientific community has yet to rally behind the theory. “Anything is possible,” Spencer Lucas, of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, told the Washington Post. “There could also be a Bigfoot in my back yard.”

Lawsuit takes on new uranium mill

The Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill will spend time in the courtroom before it breaks ground not far from Durango. Sheep Mountain Alliance, a citizens group based in Telluride, filed a legal challenge against the facility in Denver District Court last week. The suit alleges that Colorado radiation regulators violated key federal and state laws when it approved the uranium mill.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Toronto-based uranium and vanadium mining company, received approval for the mill last month. The company plans to site the mill in the middle of Western Colorado’s uranium belt on 1,000 acres of privately owned land in Paradox Valley, not far from the Dolores River. The facility would be the nation’s first in a quarter century and located close to the only other operating uranium mill in the country, the White Mesa Mill in Blanding.

However, Sheep Mountain Alliance is not done fighting. The lawsuit alleges that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment violated the Atomic Energy Act by not allowing the public to ask technical questions about the project.

“Sheep Mountain Alliance exhausted all remedies before we decided to file this lawsuit,” said Linda Miller, of Sheep Mountain’s Board of Directors. “We participated in the approval process, but our concerns were not addressed. We’re disappointed that the state did not issue a decision that would have protected the public interest, and we must now rely on the court to uphold the law.”

The suit also accuses the state of failing to protect Coloradans from the financial burdens of cleaning up the mill. It notes that Energy Fuels will be required to provide only $11 million in bonding to cover future cleanup and decommissioning and alleges that the amount is insufficient. “If state regulators ignore basic federal and state law to permit this mill, how can we ever trust them to monitor the mill once it’s in production?” said Miller.

If the court rules in SMA’s favor, Energy Fuels would be required to resubmit a complete application to state regulators and begin the approval process anew.

Dick White declares City Council bid

An advocate for sustainability and renewable energy has thrown his hat in the ring for Durango City Council. Dick White, former chair of the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado, announced his candidacy for council Tuesday.

The 67-year-old announced campaign themes of building the economy of the future, fostering community self-reliance, and collaborating for the good of all residents. “By seeking win-win outcomes that meet multiple civic goals, we can make thoughtful decisions for our future,” he said.  

White was actively involved in the creation of Durango’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan and a member of the citizens working group on the La Plata County Comprehensive Plan. He was the public spokesman for the 2006 citizen initiative that led the city and county governments to endorse the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Earlier, he was a member of the steering committee that founded the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency.      

“My campaign is about Durango,” White said. “It’s about preserving this place and making it even better for our children and for theirs.”White promised to advocate for increased collaboration between the City of Durango and other local jurisdictions. “Our vision for the future must embrace everyone.”  

Flu season makes its local arrival

Flu season has officially arrived in La Plata County. Influenza and a variety of other winter illnesses are now sweeping through Durango, and the San Juan Basin Health Department is encouraging locals to take precautions.

The Durango 9-R School Districts saw high student absences last week, and the flu is getting the blame.

 “We typically see a rise in students missing days of school this time of year due to various illnesses, including flu, but also strep, common colds and stomach bugs,” said Bari Wagner, Communicable Disease Nurse for SJBHD.

Taking basic health precautions should keep most of Durango up and running. Wagner encouraged people to: wash their hands frequently; keep hands away from the face; cover sneezes and coughs with a sleeve (not a hand); avoid others with respiratory illnesses; and stay home if you’re ill.

– Will Sands



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