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News Notes
Fossil victory in Alabama

Nearly four years of battles over reclamation of a fossil-rich, former coal mining site in northwest Alabama drew to a conclusion last month. On July 1, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) announced that the Union Chapel site would be turned over to the state for preservation.

The site, which hosts some of the world’s oldest and most diverse vertebrate and invertebrate fossilized trackways, was in danger of being bulldozed because a national law mandates that mining sites be returned to their original condition after completion of mining activities.

Since the 310-million-year-old fossils were discovered at the Union Chapel site in 1999, the Alabama Paleontological Society has been spearheading a campaign to save the site, with support from Aderholt and the Geological Survey of Alabama (see Geotimes, October 2003).

Just days before reclamation was legally required to begin last August, the Alabama Surface Mining Commission granted a stay of reclamation until a formal hearing later that year. By this spring, the commission had resolved the legal issues and reached an agreement with the involved parties — the New Acton Mining Company (which previously owned the coal mine site), the farmer who had bought the land and many supporters of the Union Chapel fossil site.

“We are all just thrilled,” says Prescott Atkinson, a pediatrician at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and an amateur paleontologist. “This is a world-class fossil site.”

Megan Sever


"Mine reclamation threatens tracksite," Geotimes, October 2003

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