26 September 2010

Nebraska Saturday

Sod house, Toadstool Geologic Park, late September

I haven't said much about my class this semester, I notice. And that is an oversight. I plead exhaustion after a non-stop summer of moving big heavy things in all directions, but that's really no excuse.

We have a class in paleontology resource management, which I floated as a trial balloon last year and is now permanent. This is a class for teaching our students about negotiating the laws, rules and regulations of the various Federal and state land management agencies that deal with fossil resources on their lands. The idea is that our students get a chance to learn about the rules for monitoring and mitigating adverse impacts on fossil resources in the course of things like highway and pipeline construction, land management agency work, and field work in general. It was, the first time, a somewhat dry course.

This year things are a lot different.

This year, we joined forces with the staff and students at Oglala Lakota College and are focusing on one issue in depth: the plans to make what is now the South Unit of Badlands National Park into its own entity, a tribal national park under the aegis of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the National Park Service. For more information about this plan, check out the General Management Plan draft here.

It is a complex plan that restores a great deal of decision-making power for this land to the Oglala Lakota people at Pine Ridge Reservation, on which the South Unit is located. Our class--both SDSMT and OLC students--will be studying this plan in depth and writing a report on the implementation of it insofar as fossil resources are affected. For the Lakota, the historic, cultural and scientific landscapes are seamlessly one entity, and all these factors must be taken into account. We are using the plan and our response to it as a real-life, real-time text.

Yesterday, both groups of students traveled to northwest Nebraska to two key sites--Toadstool Geologic Park and the Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed site--to learn about land management decisions in the field, not in the classroom.

I think that we are starting to learn a lot more about each other, too.  
Farmstead, Toadstool Geologic Park

Part of the group starts to explore the Toadstool formations

OLC and SDSMT staff, faculty and students
The sign stating the main issue

New sign referencing the new law. It only took 18 years to get this in effect...

Looking back to the sod house from the cliffs

Q: Why is it called Toadstool? A: Just look....

....and keep looking all around.

The formations are very fragile and are eroding rapidly.

Vista with a far-distant train. We are all big-sky people out here.
This little gully is opening rapidly via erosion.

Track marks

The class in session in the best possible classroom

Fall flora

Rocks, with....

....rock wrens. A study in near-monochroamtic beauty.
The rock wren watching our group.

Bird silhouette.

Formations, Toadstool.

More formations.

Cottonwoods at Hudson-Meng.

Bison sculpture at Hudson-Meng.

One of our OLC colleagues showing his son the atlatl technique. Timeless.

The atlatl and spear targets at Hudson-Meng (lifesize metal bison cutouts).

The bison bonebed, now thought to be a butchering site.

Best sign of the day, from Hudson-Meng.

The atlatl crew continues to practice the ancient survival skills.

Prairie survivor at the Cookshack.

Another survivor.

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