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    Big Bend

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Environmental Assessment - Fossil Discovery Trail

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Date: October 21, 2013
Contact: David Elkowitz, 432-477-1108

The National Park Service (NPS) proposes to construct a new fossil discovery trail exhibit near the current fossil bone exhibit. The public, organizations, and other agencies are invited to review and comment upon an Environmental Assessment (EA) describing and analyzing the proposal.

The proposed new exhibit would be located off Highway 385 (Park Route 11), eight miles north of the Panther Junction Visitor Center, at the current location of the fossil picnic area and exhibit. Approximately three to four new exhibit structures would be constructed, for use by park visitors. The proposal includes building an accessible trail to the structures; rehabilitating the lower portion of the existing trail; constructing a rock garden and children's exploration area; installing a wireless internet booster; expanding the current parking area to include a turn-around area for larger vehicles (phase two); and removing the existing fossil display structure. A parking lot, picnic shelter, and restroom already exist at the site.

The purpose of the proposed project is to construct an improved fossil exhibit that will properly interpret the rich paleontological and geological history of Big Bend National Park. The primary objectives of the proposal are to: 1) Protect fossil replicas and exhibit materials from weather (provide shaded outdoor space for weather-proof replicas and interpretative waysides); 2) Enhance interpretation of paleontological and geological resources to improve visitor understanding; and 3) Engage a wide range of visitors and provide for visitor enjoyment at the site.

This Environmental Assessment (EA) evaluates two alternatives and the potential impacts of each: 1) Alternative A, the No Action Alternative; and 2) Alternative B, to construct a new fossil discovery trail exhibit. Alternative A describes the current condition of the project area and the environmental impacts that may occur if there were no changes in the way the park currently manages the area. Alternative B describes the construction of a new fossil exhibit, rehabilitation of the lower trail, installation of interpretive materials, construction of a children's exploration area, and construction of a large vehicle turn-around and parking spaces (phase two).

The EA has been prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations (40 CFR 1500 et seq), and NPS Director's Order 12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis, and Decision-making (DO-12).

The 30-day review and comment period starts October 24, 2013, and continues through November 22, 2013. To see the Environmental Assessment, visit the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/bibe during the comment period. Written comments may be submitted online or by mail or hand-delivered to: Superintendent Cindy Ott-Jones, ATTN: Construct Fossil Exhibit – EA Comments, Big Bend National Park, P.O. Box 129, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834.

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made public at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Did You Know?

Riders on the South Rim, 1945

Many of the hiking trails in the High Chisos were originally established as stock trails to move livestock in and out of the mountains prior to the establishment of the park. These former ranching trails include the Blue Creek Canyon trail, and portions of the South Rim trail.