ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- The dinosaur-track museum in St. George has a new show-stopper: Part of a million-year-old petrified tree.
Pieces of the big conifer were dug up and stolen on public land around St. George and shopped to landscapers.
But the BLM recovered the prize. It's ready to be assembled into a 25-foot-high tree column at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site.
Russell Schreiner, a Bureau of Land Management geologist, said the fossilized tree was illegally excavated more than a year ago from Smith Mesa, a known looting site.
To get to the specimen, the looters cut down live trees in the way and dug trenches. "Now it looks like a bomb went off up there," he said.
Schreiner said that taken together, the pieces of the conifer make up a remarkable piece of geologic history. "All the pieces fit perfectly," added Andrew Milner, a paleontologist at Dinosaur Discovery Site.
The tree will stand guard just outside a climate-controlled building that's open to the public. It houses one of the best collections of dinosaur tracks from the Jurassic era.
Farmer Sheldon Johnson discovered the dinosaur tracks when he overturned a few slabs of sandstone in 2000. He later donated the property to the city.
Information from: The Spectrum
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)