I learned of yet another problem with the infernal Keystone XL pipeline this morning–and it's a bit closer to home. In addition to traversing precious water supplies, ancestral homelands, and the biodiverse Sand Hills, it will run its course through one of the most significant sites of fossil deposits in the world. sites/all/files/kansas.jpg

Fossils are a big deal to me. Last year at this time I was traipsing through central Kansas with my mom, in search of the place where my great-great-grandfather discovered a rare fossil specimen.

We found the place–a valley near Sharon Springs, Kansas, called "Goblin Hollow." In 1872, Thomas Hubbard Russell, an undergraduate student at Yale, happened upon Hesperornis Regalis, a "bird with teeth." At its time it was considered a key missing link between birds and dinosaurs. Russell was part of the storied Marsh Expedition, and the discovery took place at a time when fossils and paleontology were all the rage in this country. Entire railroad cars were filled with dinosaur femurs shipped back to museums on the East Coast.

It's hard to imagine fossil hunting captivating the national imagination–but some are still hunting to this day. My mom and I celebrated her birthday at Goblin Hollow, and it was a tremendous blessing to connect with our family's past in that way. I'd hate to see pipelines running through that quiet, rich landscape.

Transcanada, the company who would build this pipeline, vows to  monitor work sites and stop construction vehicles short of unearthing of fossils. I almost laughed when I read this, remembering that Goblin Hollow isn't distinguishable from a hole in the ground, but contains rare information about the earth we inhabit. Nevermind my lack of confidence in Transcanada's abilities at due diligence.

The Hell Creek formation contains evidence of the meteorite that wiped the dinosaurs off the face of the earth. We could do well to learn more about the species that once roamed the earth–whose remains we now burn to our peril.

I already knew burning tar sands oil was a bad idea, and I'm proud to be one of the many people who participated in the Tar Sands Action two weeks ago. But now, as a descendant of a paleontologist, I'm even more ready for President Obama to do the right thing and not approve this dangerous pipeline.


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