Low Water Levels Expose Fossils at Belle Fourche Reservoir

Media Contact: Patience Hurley, 701-250-4242
Faye Streier, 605-394-9757

For Release: December 01, 2004

The Bureau of Reclamation's Belle Fourche Reservoir in western South Dakota is experiencing extremely low water levels. This has resulted in the exposure of fossils along the shoreline. As with cultural artifacts, the disturbance or removal of fossils or fossil remains is illegal on federal land without a permit. Permits are rarely given and no permits are being issued at this time.

Please be responsible. Vehicles and ATVs driving along the shoreline at Belle Fourche Reservoir could cause damage to fossil sites. The public should be aware that seemingly empty flats could contain sensitive resources. Staying on designated roads and established trails will help prevent potential damage to these resources. Your assistance is important in helping Reclamation maintain the integrity of reservoir lands and resources.

Fossils are the remains, imprints, and traces of once-living organisms preserved in the earth's crust. They may be bones and teeth, shells, leaf impressions, footprints, or burrows. Fossils are non-renewable and often relatively rare resources with significant scientific, educational, commercial, and recreational values. Fossils on Federal lands are managed for their scientific, educational, and, increasingly, their recreational values.

As law protects these fossils, Reclamation has requested the assistance of the Butte County Sheriff's Office and law enforcement agents from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks to patrol sensitive areas and to issue citations to collectors.

Reclamation is requesting public cooperation in the protection of these resources. If you or someone you know discovers a fossil, only take photos in place; please do not handle or remove it. Note its location and contact our office at 605-394-9757 as soon as possible so that the fossil can be properly protected.

# # #

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.