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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.

The fossil tracks range from 5 to 18 inches in length and appear to have been formed when the animals wandered through deep mud along the shore of an ancient lake. Some of the footprints are deep enough that they preserve

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