Congratulations to Dava Butler who submitted and was awarded a grant on the behalf of the Waco Mammoth National Monument for a 2022 National Park Foundation (NPF) Service Corps Grant for the project, Saving the Waco Mammoths from a Second Extinction: Protecting a Scientifically Invaluable Resource Through Erosion Mitigation.
Waco Mammoth National Monument, Texas, was designated as a National Monument in 2015 to preserve and protect the “Nation's only recorded discovery of a nursery herd (females and offspring) of Pleistocene mammoths,” as well as related objects of scientific interest located within the park. As part of this mission, the park preserves several known, unexcavated fossil deposits, which likely contain mammoths, camels, and other Ice Age fossils. Recent extreme-weather events, driven by climate change, have damaged and destroyed Waco Mammoth’s fossil resources. A dry creek bed, which fills with runoff during storms, cuts through one of the Monument’s fossil deposits. As a result, scientifically-important fossils have weathered out of embankments on either side of the creek. In addition, erosion undercuts trees growing at the top of the embankments, which has caused several trees to fall. This blocks access to the deposit for scientific assessment, and it also creates a hazard to park staff. Staff from the City of Waco and Baylor University, acting in their role as park partners, covered one high-erosion area with a plastic tarp in 2016. Further maintenance was deferred to the Park Service. On recent inspection, NPS staff discovered the tarp has dry rot, and erosion of the embankment has resumed. As a new unit of the park system, the Monument has limited infrastructure and a small NPS staff (two full-time, non-maintenance rangers). Without the help of a service corps, the park is unable to take steps needed to prevent invaluable fossil specimens from being damaged or completely lost to science. By addressing deferred maintenance, this project will ensure the preservation of the park’s fossil resources, provide for the safety of its staff, and procure tools for future preservation projects.