dinosaurs in our midst

Straddling the Utah-Colorado border the semi-arid, sage brush range land breaks frequently into buttes and low mountains attesting to a tumultuous…

Straddling the Utah-Colorado border the semi-arid, sage brush range land breaks frequently into buttes and low mountains attesting to a tumultuous geological past.

Just north of Highway 40 about 300 kilometres east of Salt Lake City the push and pull of tectonic forces exposed ancient rocks from the Mesozoic Era.

In the early 1900s, a paleontologist, Earl Douglass from the Carnegie Museum, targeted the area because the rock formations there resembled other areas, which had yielded dinosaur remains.

Douglass found what he was looking for. He uncovered a rich deposit of bones near the top of a steep hill.

Thought to be the site of a Jurassic period watering hole, the sheer abundance of fossils from some 150 million years ago led President Woodrow Wilson to proclaim the quarry as the Dinosaur National Monument in 1915.

When my family visited the site, our attention was drawn along with a steady stream of other summer tourists to an original wall of the Douglass Quarry covered with an impressive array of bones in situ.

Now you can only see the nearly two-metre-long camarosaurus ribs along with some 1,400 other bones left as found on the quarry wall through a virtual exhibit. Shifting substrata has made the building which covered the site unsafe and caused officials to close it to the public a couple of years back.

For Yukon families, though, gearing up for their summer expeditions you really can’t beat the Drumheller’s Royal Tyrell Museum and Alberta’s Badlands.

They are now clearly the continent’s major attraction for modern dinosaur aficionados.

One of these days I hope to get to see our own Jurassic remnants.

The most readily accessible is the Ross River fossil trackway which was discovered in 1999. It lies about three kilometres south of the community along the Campbell Highway.

The impressions mark the passage of small herd of plant-eating dinosaurs during the Yukon’s ancient sub tropical past.

Grant Zazula, our territorial paleontologist, told science writers gathered at Yukon College for their annual convention earlier this week that he and a southern colleague plan to explore for dinosaur bones in the Peel River basin this summer.

Their targeted area yielded three small bones of a member of the duck-billed family of dinosaurs, probably a juvenile Anatosaurus back in the 1960s.

New finds might shed more light the lives of Arctic dinosaurs.  

As exploration of our hinterland continues and new tools are developed I am sure more finds will be made in our territory.

Dinosaur tracks and bones assist us in understanding the past.

This knowledge may also provide insights into how our current actions or inaction impact on the environment.

If we choose to ignore new information and act blindly we can rightly be accused of being today’s dinosaurs marching blithely towards our own extinction.

Earlier this week I heard of contemporary dinosaur-like behaviour in our own immigration system.

An extended family of refugee claimants living in the Yukon for the past several years have had to present themselves before a refugee claims adjudicator in Vancouver.

These hardworking people and their children travelled there at their own expense. It cost them well over $10,000.

In this day and age it seems incredible to me that a hearing can’t be held here in the Yukon either by flying up the single adjudicator needed for the task or by using readily available video-conferencing technology.

Given the fact that the number of claims waiting to be heard has more than tripled in the last two and a half years according to the Canadian Council for Refugees (www.ccrweb.ca) alternatives must be found to deal expeditiously and cost effectively with this reality.

The council estimates that the number of refugee claims waiting to be heard could total more than 62,000 by the end of the year.

We don’t have to be dinosaurs.

We can and should make the reforms needed to make our society more just and equitable for all including our refugee claimants and their families.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.