Doswellia are 7-foot-long carnivorous reptiles with boxy bodies, flat heads, and long necks — and the National Park Service just bought one a home.
Safari enthusiasts, however, will not get to see the creature in action. Doswellia have been extinct for somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million years, and the specimen in question is just a skeleton. But it’s a rare find, even as fossils go, and paleontologists were excited when they came across the skeleton this summer in northeastern Arizona. Nearby, researchers also found the well-preserved, 2-foot-long skull of a phytosaur, a relative of the doswellia and a distant ancestor of the modern crocodile.
And researchers say that beneath both finds, they’ve found the petrified and fossilized remains of a prehistoric pond ecosystem, full of prehistoric fish, amphibians, plants and reptiles.
All of this was too much for the Park Service to resist, and on Monday the service announced that it had bought the formerly private land for preservation and further excavation. In total, the service purchased 4,265 acres (just over 6.5 square miles). The land will now become part of the Petrified Forest National Park, a 146-square-mile stretch of protected wilderness in Arizona that is — as its name suggests — rich hunting ground for fossil finders.
The land was purchased for about $1.3 million with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that uses royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to buy high-priority land. Additional support came from an anonymous private donor, the Park Service says.
Putting the land into federal conservation will keep park vistas pristine, the service said in a release. The arid area features several high-elevation sites from which to survey its colorful rock formations.
Despite the use of royalty fees — rather than direct taxpayer contributions — new federal land acquisitions are frequently controversial in Congress, as western Republicans have questioned why the service would acquire more land at a time when it has a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog on its existing holdings.
But this purchase had a strong local backing, including from Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick — who cited the park’s economic benefits through tourism — and Republican Sen. John McCain.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.
The Department of Justice announced today it's charged "61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities."
Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."