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Fossil Bed Monument Alive Even As Superintendent Prepares To Leave


By David Starner (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Arch at Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

Las Vegas city officials voted to get back some 21,000 Ice Age fossils from a California museum that has been holding them for more than a decade.

The fossils will eventually become part of what could be a museum in the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. The monument is just north of Las Vegas below the Sheep Range near Aliante Casino. A year ago, Congress designated the 23,000 acres, rife with Ice Age fossils, a national monument.

For a little more than a year, Jon Burpee has been the superintendent of Tule Springs. He'll be leaving that post in a few months to take another job in Washington state.

He told KNPR's State of Nevada that the move is bittersweet. Although the move is a good one for him and his family, he enjoyed working with so many dedicated and passionate people at Tule Springs.

But he said plans for Tule Springs are still in full swing. The park service working with community partners has removed 358 tons of trash from the monument this past year. That's equivalent to the weight of about 38 adult male mammoths, Burpee said.

While Burpee is happy with the progress made so far, he admits it is a long term project. 

“Our job first and foremost is to protect those resources so we can share them with every future generation,” he said.

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The ultimate goal would be a museum and visitor center at the site where the thousands of fossils have already been found.  

But Burpee said what is developed at the monument will be determined by the public and what they want. He said the area is very special and many people just don't the importance of it to scientists who study the time period.

"What’s amazing about Tule Springs is we also have fossilized seeds, fossilized pollen that tell us about the overall history and ecology of that area for about 200,000 years,” he said.


Jon Burpee, superintendent, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument 

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KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada