CNCC campus in Craig now a federal fossil repository

From left to right: BLM Colorado Paleontologist Harley Armstrong, Colorado Northwestern Community College President Russell George and BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch finalize a memorandum of understanding, creating a federal fossil repository at CNCC’s Craig campus.

From left to right: BLM Colorado Paleontologist Harley Armstrong, Colorado Northwestern Community College President Russell George and BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch finalize a memorandum of understanding, creating a federal fossil repository at CNCC’s Craig campus.
From left to right: BLM Colorado Paleontologist Harley Armstrong, Colorado Northwestern Community College President Russell George and BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch finalize a memorandum of understanding, creating a federal fossil repository at CNCC’s Craig campus.
RANGELY I On Feb. 3, Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) President Russell George and paleontologist Elizabeth “Liz” Johnson, together with Ruth Welch, the Colorado state director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), signed an agreement to officially make the CNCC Craig Campus a federal fossil repository.

Becoming a federal repository is the first step for CNCC to begin offering summer Paleontology Field Experience courses along with regular semester-length courses in fossil preparation and curation. CNCC is able to collect and curate fossils found on BLM Colorado lands. Repository status brings many opportunities to CNCC that are often reserved for world-class museums and select four-year universities. The Colorado Northwestern Field Museum (CNFM) is affiliated with CNCC and the CNFM is the technical holder of the repository status.
President George stated that CNCC was proud to be offering this resource to our communities and to CNCC students. He pointed out that “CNCC becomes the first federal repository in a community college in the state of Colorado. We also will be first to offer summer dinosaur digs for academic credit and first to offer fossil curation and preparation courses. The fossils we find here can be used as an educational tool to further perform our place-based education mission.”
“We want to thank CNCC for taking the initiative to pursue repository status and for what it will mean for education and fossil curation in northwest Colorado,” Welch said. “Our state has always been at the forefront of paleontological study and we are happy to continue that tradition through this partnership.”
Fossils found in the area have previously been transported from Northwest Colorado to museums with repository status. Now fossils found can be collected, prepared and available to the public through CNCC. The excavations are pending permits from BLM. The current authorization is for surface collection with the option for Johnson to work with the field office on obtaining excavation permits.
“This is a really exciting time for CNCC,” Johnson said. “Both of CNCC’s campuses are surrounded by an abundance of fossil-bearing rocks. We will be able to explore and learn from the wonderful resources around us, all the while providing our students and community with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Fossils will stay in the community for many future generations to enjoy.”
To kick off the use of the new repository, CNCC will be hosting summer dinosaur digs for academic credit from the Rangely campus.
The summer 2015 dig will be focused on a site found by CNCC faculty Ellis Thompson-Ellis. At the conclusion of the dig, the fossils will then travel to the Craig campus, where they will be prepared, restored and curated by CNCC students during the 2015-2016 academic school year.
Johnson said, “This is an opportunity for passionate individuals to take a two-week session where participants will work side-by-side with world-renowned professional paleontologists. If you don’t have two weeks to spare, you can come out for a one-day community education experience. We want as many people as possible to get out and explore the dinosaurs in their own back yard.”
For more information on this program or for an application you can visit www.cncc.edu/paleo or email paleo@cncc.edu.
Welch also issued a disclaimer to the public, “Remember, fossils are a resource for the entire public and private collection of vertebrate fossils from public lands is strictly prohibited. Only trained paleontologists working under BLM permits can excavate fossils.”
If you have questions on the rules and regulations of fossil collecting, please don’t hesitate to contact paleo@cncc.edu or your local BLM office.