In DepthPaleontology

Why fossil scientists are suing Trump over monuments move

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Science  15 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6369, pp. 1368
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6369.1368

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Many of the groups protesting President Donald Trump's move to dramatically downsize two national monuments in Utah see a threat to today's landscapes and ecosystems. One group, however, fears for the distant past: the rich fossil record to be found in the colorful strata. On 4 December, Trump lifted strict protections from about 85% of the 61,000-hectare Bears Ears National Monument, created last year by then-President Barack Obama. And he cut in half the 760,000-hectare Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, created in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton. Within days, numerous groups filed lawsuits to block the changes, arguing that only Congress can alter monument boundaries—a claim that has never been tested, setting up a potentially blockbuster decision. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), based in Bethesda, Maryland, has joined the legal challenge. Science spoke with SVP's president, paleontologist P. David Polly of Indiana University in Bloomington, about why his group is facing off against Trump.