Department of the Interior

For Immediate Release:
May 9, 2006
Contact: David Barna, 202-208-6843
Elaine Sevy, 202-208-4987

Acting Interior Secretary Scarlett Designates
Ashfall Fossil Beds A National Natural Landmark

Site Represents First National Natural Landmark Designation in More Than 18 Years

WASHINGTON DC— Acting Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett today announced the designation of Ashfall Fossil Beds as a National Natural Landmark (NNL) in Antelope County, Neb., the first NNL to be designated in more than 18 years.

"I am pleased to designate the Ashfall Fossil Beds as a National Natural Landmark," Scarlett said. "This designation recognizes a one-of-a-kind paleontological treasure and initiates a reinvigorated National Natural Landmarks Program."

Ashfall Fossil Beds is the only location on earth where large numbers of fossil mammals have been found as whole, three-dimensionally preserved skeletons. A thick bed of volcanic ash contains hundreds of complete skeletons of extinct rhinos, camels, three-toed horses and many other vertebrates lying in their death poses in an ancient waterhole. The animals were killed and buried by ash from an enormous volcanic eruption nearly 12 million years ago.

This site was dedicated a Nebraska State Historical Park in June 8, 1991. It is open to the public.

"The natural wonders preserved at Ashfall Fossil Beds through an ancient volcanic eruption are as significant as the cultural wonders preserved at Pompeii," said NPS Director Fran Mainella. "Designating this remarkable site a National Natural Landmark recognizes this significance, which will strengthen conservation efforts and educate the public about Ashfall's natural wonders."

Since 1962, the National Natural Landmarks Program has supported the cooperative conservation of important natural areas throughout the Nation, involving private, state, municipal and Federal landowners. Currently, there are 579 designated NNLs. These sites include ranches, agricultural areas, state parks, nature preserves, and commercial properties.

The regulations that now govern the program, adopted in 1999, provide assurance that the decision to participate in the program is completely voluntary, and that designation does not entail control of land use or acquisition by the National Park Service.

The Acting Secretary also approved boundary adjustments for 66 other NNLs and removal of NNL designation for eight sites, as a result of property owner requests or because the resources for which that NNL was established are no longer adequately represented. For a complete list of National Natural Landmarks and additional information about the program, please visit