Significance statements express why a park's resources and values are important enough to merit designation as a unit of the national park system. These statements are linked to the purpose of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, and are supported by data, research, and consensus. Statements of significance describe the distinctive nature of the park and why an area is important within a global, national, regional, and systemwide context. They focus on the most important resources and values that will assist in park planning and management.
The following significance statements have been identified for Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. (Please note that the sequence of the statements does not reflect the level of significance.)
1. The park contains globally significant paleontological resources, representing a diversity of fossils from the Pliocene. Tens of thousands of fossils have been discovered in the park, including more than 140 species of animals and plants. This includes species that were first discovered here and species that have not been found anywhere else in the world.
2. The park's paleontological resources are contained in an extensive stratigraphic record, spanning at least 500,000 years. These fossil deposits are exposed across more than 4,000 acres of the park. They record a diverse fossil landscape representative of lake, wetland, riparian, woodland, and grassland environments. The majority of the park is classified as a national natural landmark.
3. The fossil record at Hagerman Fossil Beds provides a detailed glimpse into life that occurred during the Pliocene period, the most recent geologic time period that experienced global warming. The expansive timeframe exposed on the monument, coupled with the species diversity it contains, provides a framework for understanding climatic change and environmental response today and in the future.
4. The species found within the Hagerman fossil record include the ancestors of species living today. Some of these descendants occur in North America, while others are now only found in distant places like Asia and South America. Hagerman's fossils contribute to a growing understanding of evolutionary relationships and distributions of species across continents.
5. The park features a fossil horse quarry recognized as one of North America's most important sites concerning the evolutionary history of the horse.
6. The fossil-rich landscape at the park is the result of 4.2 million years of geologic history of sedimentary deposition, fossilization, and erosion. The park reflects the accumulation of sediments associated with ancient Lake Idaho, the cataclysmic impacts of the Bonneville flood, and the basalt flows that affected the course of the Snake River. Collectively, past and present geologic processes contribute to the ability to access, study, and understand this remarkable fossil record at Hagerman.
7. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the few federally administered fossil sites specifically set aside for paleontological research. Since the Smithsonian first excavated in 1929, tens of thousands of additional fossils have been found and new fossils continue to be discovered. Research since the 1930s has led to numerous scientific publications on the descriptions of new species, changing community dynamics throughout the geologic sequence, and the site's geologic history. The opportunities and benefits from multidisciplinary research will continue to grow as additional fossil and geologic discoveries occur and new technologies emerge.