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Statement of Daniel D. McArthur, Mayor, City of St. George, Utah, on
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony on this important project which will preserve a national treasure. My name is Daniel D. McArthur, and I am Mayor of the City of St. George, Utah, and I am here on behalf of the City today. This legislation is most important to the City of St. George for several reasons which I will attempt to quantify in my testimony today.
I would like to give you a brief history of the significant events surrounding this incredible scientific and education find of dinosaur tracks:
Dr. Sheldon Johnson was leveling a small sandy hill on his property adjacent to the Virgin River in the City of St. George. He was turning over rocks when he uncovered what has been classified as one of the best collections of dinosaur tracks ever found anywhere in the world. The footprints are actually a cast of the foot, where two hundred million years ago dinosaurs walked and stepped in eight inches of clay. The clay rested on a later of rock that filled with sand. It was perfect for making footprints.
So far, at this site two species of carnivores, or meat eaters, have been identified. Also, tracks of herbivores, or plant eaters, known as prosauopods have been found. These tracks have not yet been definitely identified.
The largest of the carnivore tracks at this location are of a dinosaur known as Dilophosaurus. The word dinosaur means "terrible lizard" in the ancient Greek language. When you break down the word Dilophosaurus, “di" means two, and "lopho" means ridges, and "saurus" means lizard, thus "two ridged lizard." It is believed that at the hips he stood about as high as a small to medium sized horse, and was approximately 20 feet long. He would have weighed between 700 and 1000 pounds. The Dilophosaurus was the dominant predator of its time. Dilophosaurus did not overpower its prey; it slashed and tore the flesh of its victim until it fell. It was fast and agile. Three of the four fingers on the hands had claws that gripped and tore at the prey when it was feeding.
As you are probably aware, there are several sites in Utah where dinosaur tracks have been found, but this is the only one providing a unique look at what is basically a cast of a dinosaur's foot.
St. George is located in the middle of several national parks and other natural wonders of the world. The discovery of these magnificent tracks provide the United States, the State of Utah, and the City of St. George with a great opportunity, as well as a sacred obligation to preserve the past. This dinosaur track find provides a unique opportunity for the aforementioned governmental entities to come together to preserve what could legitimately become a national and world treasure, possibly the only one of its kind on earth.
Because of St. George's location in the middle of so many national parks and along the I-15 freeway corridor, establishment of this national preserve would make the tracks available to millions of potential visitors from every state and foreign country. Establishment and protection of this resource would provide economic, educational and cultural benefits to a wide cross-section of the public. Scientific_research would also be provided if this site is preserved because most of the site has yet to be excavated. The State of Utah is interested in digging the rest of the site and has earmarked funds to pursue this additional excavation if the site can be secured. This scientific and educational opportunity is incredible and does not come around very often.
The City of St. George supports approval of H.R. 2385 for the following reasons: A. This bill provides for a partnership of federal, state, and local resources to preserve a national treasure.
B. This bill provides an opportunity for scientific and educational research through on-site excavations.
C. This bill preserves an asset that over 150,000 people have visited during its first year without promotion or adequate facilities.
D. This bill provides economic development opportunities for increased tourist traffic to Southwestern Utah.
E. This bill provides potential new visitors to the national parks and monuments in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
Approval of this bill would begin the process which must occur if we are going to preserve the historic find for future generations to enjoy.
Again, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of this Committee, for the opportunity you have given me to present this testimony. I would strongly urge you to approve H.R. 2385 so this mutually beneficial project to preserve these historic dinosaur tracks can go forward. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF SHELDON JOHNSON, DISCOVERER OF JOHNSON FARM DINOSAUR SITE, ST. GEORGE, UTAH Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the invitation to speak on behalf of the dinosaur discovery that holds so much value to so many people in our nation and around the world. I especially want to thank Representative Hansen for drawing all responsible parties together in an effort to save these unique scientific artifacts for future generations.
My name is Sheldon Johnson. I am a retired optometrist who developed a small farm some 30 years ago to teach five sons how to work. Years ago, I donated some of my farm ground to the City of St. George for a road, and about a year and a half ago, the city began improving that dirt road, and they cut through a small hill. I felt that I should bring this hill down to the level of the road. I took about 20 feet of the hill off and hauled the dirt away, and I came upon a large layer of rock that was very peculiar. It came out in chunks, three foot wide, two foot thick and 20-foot long with perfectly straight edges and sides.
Kelly Bringhurst, a geology professor at Dixie State College in Utah said that is Jurassic mudstone from the age of the first dinosaurs. I then looked for dinosaur impressions on the top of those rocks but saw none. Then, hauling away rock one day, I accidentally turned a large stone over and found on the bottom of these huge stones perfect casts of dinosaur feet. They were so startling to me that I could hardly believe what I was seeing. As I turned over the rocks I had lifted up, I found that I had casts or native tracks of over 300 dinosaur feet.
Only half of the stones on the sites have even been revealed yet. There is much more to discover. These trace fossils, preserved underground for 200 million years, are now exposed to the high desert temperatures, the wind and rain and cold. They will deteriorate and have deteriorated and suffer adverse effects until we are able to place them in a more protective environment.
This discovery site inside the City of St. George is about one mile off Interstate 15 and is bordered to the south by the Virgin River, which is the drainage source of Zion National Park. Those beautiful salmon and white cliffs are clearly seen from this 2,000-foot elevation, but from this point, the earth rises to 10,500 feet and thus provides a breathtaking panorama to visually teach the geology of our earth.
Utah State Paleontologist Dr. James Kirkland-he is the consultant to Discovery Channel on Walking with Dinosaurs enthusiastically verifies our discovery and has been a great help, as has Dr. Wade Miller of BYU. Renowned scientist and author Dr. Martin Laughley, world-recognized authority on dinosaur tracks and a most avid supporter of ours would like to bring a third scientific team to continue exploration as the protective housing is under
These and other scientists tell us these tracks are the very best yet discovered; that they show two distinct species of dinosaurs and significant signs of others. These artifacts show details of dinosaur anatomy never before seen. Paleontologists and geologists from around the world who visit this site agree with us that sharing this discovery with the scientific community means we will continue
this excavation in a very organized way to find the most complete, detailed information about what was once the world of dinosaurs. As many as five buses at the site a day bring students to witness the wonders and feel the excitement. I was there one day when two buses from Princeton University's Department of Geology came with graduate geology students. As we share these artifacts, people plead that a museum be built to preserve and make available the thrill of discovery to children and adults from all walks of life.
We have counted as many as 3,000 people in one day. A sample count of a typical day from our register showed that 900 people came from 29 different states and five different countries that day. Without maps or brochures or marketing, we have had well over 150,000 from every state of our nation and from at least 55 different nations in this 1 year and 4 months that we have been since our discovery. They still come. They have heard about this amazing site from word of mouth; from television broadcasts that have gone the world around; from magazines, newspaper articles and handcarried to us from around the world.
We thank 42 volunteers who have given hundreds of hours each to protect the prints; to study, research and guide visitors through the rewarding experience they will always remember. We have never charged money or tried to commercialize this, but visitors' donations have helped some of our expenses. St. George City has made it possible to come this far. We will give some property. A prominent architects' firm has voluntarily volunteered talent, and a local bank has donated money for a sign. My wife, LaVerna, and I feel that we must all share in this dream. We have set up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to help funds for the educational project, but first, we need a climate-controlled storage and work and display area for these great artifacts and for the volunteers and international visitors when the temperatures reach as high as 110 in St. George.
Other museums desire these artifacts, but we have enough to share. But first, we must take care of what is on our site. Then, we can share. We feel that these dinosaur trace fossils were given to us personally so that people all over the world can enjoy and feel the thrill of their existence. Visitors always say this site must be saved. A doctor from Paris, France told us one day: this treasure does not belong to your country. This belongs to the world. Who will get to help you?
With your help, we will build an exciting place of preservation, discovery, imagination, miracle, inspire, inquire and education. We are asking you to help us make a united dream of sharing come true.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Johnson follows:]
Statement of Dr. Sheldon B. Johnson, Discoverer of Johnson Farm
Thank you so much for the invitation to speak in behalf of this scientific discovery of exceptional dinosaur tracks that hold so much value for so many people in our nation and around the world. I especially want to thank Representative Hansen for drawing all responsible parties together in an effort to save these unique artifacts for future generations.
I am Sheldon Johnson, from St. George, Utah-a small community located on I15 between Las Vegas, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah. I am a retired optometrist
who developed a small farm some thirty years ago to teach our five sons a good work ethic. They helped clear the land, level it, plant it, and harvest crops as they earned money for college the hard way, and grew in strength and character.
They are now productive tax-paying family men and engineers. One of these taxpaying sons who worked on the family farm has Down syndrome. He has worked for J.C. Penney's for 35 years, lives independently with his wife, and is a licensed driver who drives his wage-earned car well.
I believe that joy in hard work pays many unseen dividends, and I believe that sharing the results of that hard work also brings joy.
This past year and a half of our great effort and expense trying to share our dinosaur discovery and to preserve this historic scientific treasure has been both hard work and rewarding as we have met good people from all over the world.
I guess this started many years ago when I donated some of my farm land to the city of St. George for a road they wanted to put through. About a year and a half ago the city began improvement on this dirt road, and they cut through a small hill on the farm. I talked my sons and partner into buying a track hoe and allowing me to dig down this hill which was thirty or forty feet high to bring the property more to the level of the road.
After I took about twenty feet of the hill off and hauled the dirt away, I came upon a layer of rock that was very peculiar. It came out in chunks three feet wide, two feet thick and ten to twenty feet long, with perfectly straight edges and sides. I asked Kelly Bringhurst, my stepson who is a Geology professor at Dixie State College of Utah what this stone was and he said it was Jurassic mudstone from the age of the first dinosaurs 204 Million years ago. I looked for dinosaur impressions on the top of the rocks but didn't see any.
Then one day I accidentally turned a large stone over and on the bottom of these very large blocks of stone were perfect casts of dinosaur feet. They were so startling to me I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Each rock I turned over had several really fantastic casts of large and small dinosaur feet. (I later would learn terms like Grallator and Eubrontes.
Life took a big change as my wife and I unexpectedly found ourselves with a new job of greeting visitors-which for the first three months usually went from 8 o'clock in the morning until about 9:30, or until it was too dark to see at night, seven days a week. Finally a gentleman stepped in and said, "You have got to have some volunteers here or you are going to kill yourselves. This is never going to end!"
We are so grateful to the good people who have stepped up to volunteer at "their" site!
When I finished turning over all the rocks I had lifted up, I found that I had casts of over three hundred dinosaur feet. There is at least again as much area of Jurassic mudstone that remains to be lifted up and needs to be scientifically investigated. Dr. Wade Miller of Brigham Young University was the first scientist to visit and verify this Jurassic discovery. Soon after, many scientists came.
Utah's State Paleontologist Dr. James Kirkland (consultant to Discovery Channel's Walking With Dinosaurs, and world renowned author and dinosaur track expert Dr. Martin Lockley tell us that our tracks show two distinct species of dinosaur, and possibly more. They show details of dinosaur anatomy never before seen. Fortunately, Dr. Lockley completed measuring, tracing, and photographing a fourstep tail drag on a surface layer of the site before it became weather worn.
I have built a shade cover for the overturned prints, but during this past year and a half these trace fossils (that have been preserved underground for over two hundred million years in more ideal conditions) have been exposed to the high desert temperatures, wind, rain, and cold. These marvelous artifacts will continue to suffer adverse effects until we are able to protect them in a more managed environment.
As geologists and paleontologists have come from around the world to our site to see the foot casts, and trace fossils, they all agree with our decision not to turn over more stones until we have a way to preserve and protect this world class scientific discovery.
We also agree that sharing this discovery with the scientific community means we will continue this excavation in a very organized way that will benefit not only the inquiring or curious mind, tourists and students alike, but in a way that will produce the most complete, detailed information about our world-evidence of plant and animal life of the world of dinosaurs 204 million years ago.
As we have shared these artifacts with people from all over the world they have all agreed that a permanent museum needs to be built to protect and preserve and make available the thrill of discovery to children and adults from all walks of life. Enclosed is a sample of our guest register taken from a part of an hour in May 2000. It indicates the feelings people get in sharing this discovery.
A sample count of a typical day from our register shows us 900 people from twenty-nine states and five different nations visited our site that day.
The site is easily accessible inside the city of St. George on what is now a major road about one mile from the freeway. The property is bordered to the south by the Virgin River which is the drainage source of Zion National Park. The beautiful white and salmon colored cliffs of the park can be seen from the discovery site. The elevation of our site is about 2000 feet, but from this place the vista of earth layers rise to 10,500 feet! Thus, an unusually varied view greets the visitor, providing a favorite place to visually teach the geology of our earth.
Busses of students come to the site daily from Utah and surrounding states to witness the wonders and feel the excitement. One day I was there when two busses from Princeton University's Dept. of Geology came with graduate Geology students to share the discovery. We have had as many as five school busses on site at one time. Students continue to arrive from near and far.
A great number of Paleontologists have come to the site and helped us in this discovery. Dr. Martin Lockley, the world's recognized authority on dinosaur foot prints is our most avid supporter. Dr. Lockley would like to organize a scientific discovery team to continue the find as soon as we have a place to put the artifacts. Dr. James Kirkland, Utah's state Paleontologist, has been a great help in giving authenticity to what we have found and in guiding the state to do what they can do.
My wife, LaVerna Johnson, a retired educator, is working very hard to create a greatly needed place of learning and discovery here. We have set up DinosaurAH!torium, a 501(c)3 not for profit corporation to search for grants and aid from philanthropic organizations to help fund future educational projects related to this site.
But first we need to build a safe storage facility with a climate controlled storage area, a scientific work area, and display area for these great artifacts where our volunteers and international visitors can enjoy this scientific discovery when the temperature is as high as 110 in the summer.
We feel that all must share in this dream. We will give some property, Naylor/ Wentworth, a prominent architectural firm, has volunteered talent and service and has done a plot and elevation study of the site. Washington Mutual Savings, a local bank, has donated a DinosaurAH!torium sign at the site so people searching can find us. Mayor Dan McArthur and St. George City has made it possible to come this far on the project with the help of its Parks and Recreation Department. The Washington County Volunteer Center has helped staff with wonderful daily volunteers. This discovery site can be reached by turning off Interstate 15 at the Washington Exit, the first St. George area exit as you enter from the north. Go south, pass CostCo and travel about one mile until you see a DinosaurAH!torium sign on the left side of the road. Visitors are welcome.
However, there are no freeway signs to tell people to stop. There is no advertising, no brochure, no publicity campaign, but we have recorded as many as three thousand people in a day, over five thousand on a holiday weekend, and now have had well over 150,000 people come to see these prints in the past year and four months. Record books kept since March 2000 tell us that people have come from every state of our nation, and from at least fifty five different countries! And they still come. They have heard about this “amazing sight" by word of mouth, by magazine and newspaper articles they often hand carry to us from around the world, and from seeing several television broadcasts that have gone world wide. An interactive video program broadcast to South America via Voice of America featured this unique discovery.
Scientific journals and publications geared to the public continue to tell of our discovery and its significance, the most recent article being in SCIENCE NEWS. Yesterday's interview from VIA Magazine, with a readership of 2.5 million people, a new dinosaur book coming out this fall called Dinosaurs of Utah, and several other magazine articles coming out within the next two months tell us that visitor numbers will only increase.
My wife LaVerna and I have traveled to many museums since that day of discovery, and we find that these dinosaur foot casts are unique. She has since become member of the board of the Utah Museums Association (of which DinosaurAH!torium is a member), and we work for the benefit of all the public as we strive to save and preserve this valuable site. Utah's Office of Museum Services is awarding a $9,000.00 grant to assist us in preserving this national treasure.
Visitors unite in a chorus of: "This site must be saved." As a doctor from France told us one day, "This site does not just belong to just your country, you know. This treasure belongs to all the world! Who will help you do this?"
We have never charged money or tried to commercialize this find, but we have received donations from guests that have helped with some of our expense. The city