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Saved in Time

The Fight to Establish Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado

Estella B. Leopold

Publication Year: 2012

In the summer of 1969, a federal district court in Denver, Colorado, heard arguments in one of the nation’s first explicitly environmental cases, in which the Defenders of Florissant, Inc. opposed real estate interests intent on developing lands containing an extraordinary set of ancient fossils. This book, the first account of the fight to preserve the Florissant fossil beds, tells a story of environmental activism that remains little known more than forty years after the coalition’s victory. The principal author, Estella Leopold, was a major participant in the process.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book recounts the establishment and significance of a national monument at the world-famous Florissant fossil beds in Colorado. Collaborating on this book are Estella B. Leopold, botanist and professor emeritus at the University of Washington, and Herbert W. Meyer, resident...

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pp. xv-xviii

Many contributors played important roles in the preparation of this book between 2008 and 2012. Writer John Stansfield worked with us in the early stages of the book, did much of the early editing, and collaborated with Estella Leopold to pen chapter 7. In particular, the authors owe a...

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pp. xix-xxvii

In the summer of 1969, the Federal District Court of Denver, Colorado, heard arguments in one of the nation’s first explicitly environmental cases, that of the Defenders of Florissant, Inc., versus real estate interests that were intent on turning land containing an extraordinary...

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1. Unearthing Wonders

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pp. 1-16

Since the 1870s, many paleontologists, fossil collectors, settlers, entrepreneurs, and tourist operators have shaped careers from their fossil discoveries at Florissant. In 1871, Theodore Meade, a young butterfly-collecting college student from Cornell University, gathered some of the first fossils...

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2. Geologic Book Burning or Preservation?

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pp. 17-37

Unique fossil beds of evident beauty and international recognition of their scientific importance, occurring in a remarkable landscape, might seem a perfect place for the nation early on to establish a park or national monument. But that did not happen, though there were calls for...

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3. The Developers Want Florissant

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pp. 38-54

The central part of the Florissant Valley, recently purchased by A. W. Gregg of Houston, Texas, comprised some 3,000 acres, of which 1,800 acres had been proposed for inclusion in the national monument (figure 3.1). Gregg had originally purchased the land from John Maytag some...

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4. Fossils Go to Court

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pp. 55-64

On the morning of Wednesday, July 9, 1969, Victor Yannacone, Dick Lamm (figure 4.1), Tom Lamm, several other Defenders of Florissant, and I, along with several friends from the Audubon Society, approached the Federal District Courthouse in downtown Denver. The courthouse is an...

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5. Victory—in Court and in Congress

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pp. 65-78

The temporary restraining order of July 10, 1969, from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was an unexpected blow to the private land developers intent on carving up the Florissant fossil beds. On the following Tuesday, July 15, Robert Johnson, attorney for the Park Land Company, and...

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6. The National Park Service Steps In

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pp. 79-94

The National Park Service faced a variety of challenges when it came to developing the new monument. First, the land had to be purchased and brought under a single coherent plan for its management. This management needed to provide an educational experience for the growing number...

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7. Beyond Florissant

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pp. 95-104

During the late 1960s and through the early 1970s, a wave of change swept like a tsunami across the United States and the world, bringing a better understanding of the importance of healthy environments and the need to protect natural resources. The campaign to save the Florissant fossil...

Appendix: An Epoch Sealed in Stone: A Guide to Florissant’s Ancient Life and Fossils

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pp. 105-115


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pp. 116-126

Suggested Reading

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pp. 127-129

Dramatis Personae

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pp. 130-133


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pp. 135-139

Image Plates

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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826352378
E-ISBN-10: 0826352375
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826352361
Print-ISBN-10: 0826352367

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 28 color plates., 42 halftones, 7 maps, 2 charts
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (Colo.) -- History.
  • Defenders of Florissant, Inc.
  • Fossils -- Colorado -- Florissant Region -- History.
  • Nature conservation -- Colorado -- Florissant Region -- History.
  • Environmental protection -- Colorado -- Florissant Region -- History.
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