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Tule Springs Fossil Beds Could Become National Park | News

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Tule Springs Fossil Beds Could Become National Park

LAS VEGAS -- Thousands of acres running across the northern outskirts of Las Vegas could become a national park because of its rich fossil beds.

The entire Nevada delegation is supporting a bill to make Tule Springs a national monument. Governor Brian Sandoval and Nellis Air Force base are also supporting the effort.

Paleontologists say you can trip over fossils from the ice age when walking along Tule Springs. They envision a park where one day Las Vegans and tourists can watch as gigantic animals like Columbian mammoths, dire wolves, and camels are unearthed. It would all happen only a few steps from northwest Las Vegas neighborhoods.

"There is a history that predates Bugsy Seigel. There were animals that lived here. We have a fantastically rich history," said Steve Rowland, UNLV professor of geology.

A swampland attracted animals of the ice age. Fossils can still be found scattered across the Tule Springs area. Rowland, a paleontologist, says more discoveries are just below the surface.

"Big lions, and dire wolves and sabertooth cats ... so we have a whole eco-system of pleistocene animals that lived right here in southern Nevada," Rowland said.

Supporters of the Tule Springs Fossil Bed National Monument bill say the park could generate millions of eco-tourism dollars and allow people to witness excavations. The commander of Nellis Air Force Base, representatives from Senator Harry Reid and Representative Steven Horsford's offices, and leaders of the National Parks Conservation Association toured the proposed site this week.

"It has been a 10 year effort to get people aware of what's out here and to get people to come together to support it," said Lynn Davis, National Parks Conservation Association.

Colonel Barry Cornish says the legislation also protects an air corrider between Nellis and Creech used for testing and research.

"It's equally important we protect these things from the past, it's equally important that we protect our future as well," Col. Cornish said.

Rowland is excited for new findings. 

"What was the relationship like between these early hunters and these large Pleistocene animals," Rowland wonders.

The Tule Springs Fossil Bed National Monument bill is moving through both the House and Senate. It must pass through a subcommittee before it can be put to a full vote.