State Lands to Hold Fossil Site Dedication March 12

The State Lands Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will dedicate the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site Saturday, March 12 at 10:00 a.m.

The site, which is located in Walker County near Jasper, was formerly the Union Chapel Coal Mine. The significance of the mine was first discovered by an Oneonta High School science teacher when a student told him of the fossilized tracks he had found on the area. The teacher, who happened to be a member of the Alabama Paleontological Society, alerted other members of the significant fossils and their unusual abundance.

Many experts in the field of ichnology, the study of fossilized tracks, have touted this area to be one of the best fossil trackway sites of the Pennsylvanian Period in the world. The fossilized tracks, dating back 310 million years, were created in the vast mudflats that covered the Jasper area when the ancient coastline reached far into the present-day inland areas. Since the discovery of the site, the Alabama Paleontological Society has collected and catalogued over 2,000 fossils of early Pennsylvanian-age amphibian trackways and other trace fossils.

The State acquired the property in 2004. The site will be managed by the State Lands Division for scientific research and to promote educational programs about Alabama’s ancient history. For the present time, the site will be open only to scientists and scheduled school groups.

The site was in jeopardy of being covered up due to the requirements of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1977, which mandates that vacated mines be restored to their original state. Through legislation introduced by Congressman Robert Aderholt and the concerted efforts of the Alabama Paleontological Society, Geological Survey of Alabama, New Acton Coal Co., and the Alabama State Lands Division, the Alabama Surface Mining Commission agreed to protect the area.

The site is being renamed for the late Steven C. Minkin in recognition of his contribution to understanding Alabama’s paleontology and natural history. Minkin was a geologist and member of the Alabama Paleontological Society, Inc. He played an instrumental role in the recognition of the significance of this unusual resource.

To view images of the fossils, visit http://bama.ua.edu/~rbuta/monograph/.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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