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Fossil footprints could be monumental

11:26am, June 19, 2001

Dinosaur tracks found on vacant property in a small Utah town could soon be protected as part of a new U.S. national monument.

Sheldon Johnson, who owns the 50-acre parcel of land in St. George, discovered the evidence of ancient life while excavating a hill in February 2000. Johnson's original plans would have converted the plot, next to a school, into an industrial park.

"It's a remarkable site," says James I. Kirkland, the state paleontologist of Utah. More than 100 footprints of meat-eating theropod dinosaurs have been uncovered there, as well as grooves where the creatures' tails dragged in the mud. Says Kirkland: "Hats off to Mr. Johnson," who, rather than helping to preserve the site, could have quietly bulldozed the fossils into oblivion.

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