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Boy Scouts destroy dinosaur fossils; ranger appalled

SALT LAKE CITY -Three Boy Scouts on a troop outing tossed a 190 million-year-old set of dinosaur tracks into a reservoir last week, prompting a park ranger to call on Scout leaders to do a better job of teaching environmental ethics.

Curt Sinclear, the park ranger who saw the boys vandalizing the rocks at Red Fleet State Park in eastern Utah, said Friday he was "angry , sad and disappointed that the Boy Scout's environmental message is getting lost."

"What are they teaching these kids?" said Sinclear , who was a Boy Scout as a youth. "To me this is a double blow, because we've lost something irreparable and these were Boy Scouts that should have been supervised." Kay Godfrey, information officer for Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the Scouts take responsibility for the incident and may review their policies to avoid vandalism in the future.


Virginia Harrington/Vernal Express (AP) 
STATE PARK
RANGER Mike Murray points to a partial dinosaur print that is the only remaining track of a three-point track severely damaged by Boy Scouts at Red Fleet State Park near Vernal, Utah, July 20. According to officials, three Boy Scouts dug out chunks of the 190 million-year-old set of dinosaur tracks and threw the rocks into a reservoir, irreparably damaging the prehistoric find.

"This reflects a disregard for the principles that Scouting promotes," Godfrey said. "It ought to be a warning to our leaders to always be aware of their surroundings and conscious of the conduct of our youth." Sinclear said he witnessed last Thursday's destruction, seeing the. splashes in the water caused by the two boys throwing the prehistoric rocks at floating buoys.

One of the 15-year-old boys, whose name is not being released, put his fingers into cracks in the dinosaur tracks and pried them apart. Two other boys threw the chunks, while a fourth boy stood near-by, according to Sinclear.

More than 120,000 visitors every year marvel at the site near Vernal where about 300 dinosaur tracks are preserved in beds of sandstone. The tracks are about a foot long and 8 inches wide, according to Jim Kirkland, the state's paleontologist. At least three tracks were destroyed.

Although there are other Dilophosaurus "track ways," or more than three tracks made by the same dinosaur, these were among the best, Kirkland said. The tracks, which appear to have three toes, some with claws extended, were caused by meat-eating dinosaurs that came to an oasis to drink. The prints help scientists learn about the way dinosaurs move and their incIination to herd.

By ripping up the slabs, the boys left two scars, each about 6 inches deep, on the ground near the water. One was about 3 feet by 2 feet, the other just over a foot long, The dinosaur tracks are normally available for the public to look at and walk on. Kirkland said that is unlikely to change.

Officials said it may be possible to find some of the thrown pieces. However, much of the rock was broken and would be difficult to put together again, Sinclear said.

The boys were unsupervised on the shore because their troop leader took other boys for a ride in a boat. The group had been hiking and water-skiing in the area. Three of the boys claimed they did not know they were destroying dinosaur prints when they ripped up the slabs. The fourth boy, who did not participate, said he knew what was being destroyed and that's why he didn't join in.

Kirkland said a descriptive sign about the tracks had been vandalized and was not visible. He said the signs may have helped reinforce the importance of the tracks. Sinclear filed a juvenile citation against the three boys. He said the boys and the Scout leader should be punished with community service and fines. Federal, state and local agencies are discussing jurisdiction.

The boy's names have not been rele4sed, nor has the Boy Scout troop number. There are about 150,000 Boy Scouts in Utah.

Source: Catherine Blake, Arizona Daily Sun, Saturday, July 28, 2001. p. D1

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