NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Leaders of the 99th Air Base Wing made the trip to the Tule Springs fossil beds and toured the excavation sites with paleontology experts and members of the local news media Nov. 18.
Col. Barry Cornish, 99th ABW commander, Col. Robert Ramsden, 99th ABW vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Steven Cleveland, 99th ABW command chief, visited the site and took the opportunity to raise awareness of a current bill that would grant Tule Springs the title of “national monument.”
“We’ve made great partnerships with a lot of our conservation and national parks and wildlife folks, and we’re very happy to be able to come out here and support the Tule Springs monument,” Cornish said. “It’s of huge interest to us to make sure this land is preserved and protected through the ages.”
Since the early 1960s when excavation began at Tule Springs, paleontologists and students have found the fossil remains of a wide variety of pre-historic animals ranging from mammoths to dire wolves. Area scholars hope the upgrade to national monument status will bring even more discoveries in the years to come.
“This site is especially significant because it’s answering questions about what was happening during the last 2.5 million years of earth’s history,” said Dr. Stephen Rowland, a professor of geology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. “If and when this site becomes a national monument it will explode in terms of popularity, and it will offer more and more opportunities to get people excited about science.”
The site that’s yielded so many paleontological discoveries also falls within the vital air corridor that Nellis aircraft use to make a safe, non-disruptive flight to the Nevada Test and Training Range for air combat exercises. According to Nellis leaders, further development of the area could mean possible safety risks and an increase in noise disruptions.
“We utilize the NTTR as one of the premiere assets for testing, training and tactics development and it’s great for our national defense,” Cornish said. “This requires us to operate aircraft in and out of the NTTR from Nellis and Creech AFBs, so this air corridor is very important to us.”
Proponents say the bill has bi-partisan support but has been held back in various levels of government throughout the last 10 years due to the presence of bigger issues. Lynn Davis, Nevada field office manager for National Parks Conservation Association says that more awareness will be the key to success.
“It’s been a 10-year effort to get people aware of what’s out here and come together to support it,” Davis said. “In this country I don’t think you’ll find any other park proposal that has this kind of support from the community.”