Geological & Paleontological



Leasable Minerals (Oil and Gas) -All National Forest System lands on the Nebraska National Forest, except for the Soldier Creek Wilderness and Pine Ridge National Recreation Area, are legally available for leasing. The Bureau of Land Management offers leases for sale, but only after the Forest Service has completed required National Environmental Policy Act analysis and decisions.

The only oil production on the NNF comes from the west half of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in Fall River County, South Dakota. There are 3 oil wells on the BGNG that have produced oil since the early 1980's. Barrels of oil produced per day are quite low as the fields are nearly drained. No new fields have been discovered even though 10 wildcat wells have been drilled since 1995. All the wells drilled were dry holes. No natural gas is produced.

Uranium, if mined under acquired federal mineral status, is also a leasable mineral. A vein of uranium lies underground across a small tract of National Forest System lands in an area of the Pine Ridge Ranger District near Crawford, Nebraska. An applicant has submitted an application to in-situ mine the uranium, however; pending environmental analysis and permit requirements, it is expected that production will not occur for at least another 5 to 10 years.

Mineral Materials - The Nebraska National Forest is not rich in saleable mineral materials such as gravel, sand, stone, clay, and petrified wood. Several gravel pits have been developed in the past by County agencies for the purpose of county road improvements, however, most gravel pits occur on private lands.

Locatable Minerals - Locatable minerals are those hard rock minerals which are mined and processed for the recovery of metals. No mining occurs on the Nebraska National Forest.

Geologic Resources

Paleontology, a branch of geology, is the study of any evidence of life from the geological past, including tracks, trails and natural casts and molds. This area is part of the Fossil Freeway.  The sciences of paleontology and archeology are commonly confused. Archeology is the study of any human-related artifacts. Fossils are a nonrenewable resource that is valued in many different aspects by a wide variety of people. Researchers regard fossils as scientific tools to decipher ancient environments, to learn about ancient ecosystems, etc. Amateur paleontologists usually have 'normal' jobs, but devote their spare time to learning about fossils through collection. Commercial 'paleontologists' extract, trade, sell, deal, etc., fossil resources for the sole purpose of making a profit.

Paleontological resources are not protected by a national law as archeological resources are. The Forest Service has policy, however; little manual direction for fossil resources, which stems from 36 CFR 261.9(i) which states "excavating, damaging, or removing any vertebrate fossil or removing any paleontological resource for commercial purposes without a special use authorization" is prohibited.

The Forest Service has only recently recognized the need to manage paleontological resources and the keen public interest in these resources. In 1991, the Nebraska was the first Forest to initiate fossil inventories and in 1996, the Nebraska was the first to complete a Forest-wide paleontological resource survey. The first paleontologist in the Forest Service was hired in 1992 on the Nebraska.

A geologist, who was the Toadstool Campground Host several years ago and also a partner to monitor and map the fossil trackways in Toadstool Geologic Park, provided information about a possible fossil theft. This led to the first fossil theft case in Nebraska, in which the collector was found guilty of two felonies for extracting fossil resources for commercial purposes without a permit.

The inventories have provided physical evidence that approximately 30% of the Oglala and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands have been impacted by unauthorized fossil collection. More Forest Service employees are becoming more aware of fossils and the importance of managing this nonrenewable resource. The Northern Great Plains Plan Revision was the first land use management plan to include paleontological resources and establish policies and direction beyond the regulation. Several Special Interest Areas (SIAs) have been designated to provide better protection and conservation of paleontological resources on the Nebraska National Forest.

When Albert Meng discovered bones weathering out of an eroding bank nearly 50 years ago, he could not have imagined how important his discovery would become. A local rancher with many interests, including amateur archeology, Albert and his friend Bill Hudson tried to get professional advice to see if the bones were important to science. Finally succeeding, after several years and many setbacks, the two men lent their names to what today is the largest bison bonebed of its age (nearly 10,000 years) in the Western Hemisphere.

The Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center is an outstanding example of how ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions to understanding our past. If you make a discovery on a national grassland or national forest, make sure of its location and report it promptly to the nearest Forest Service office. Who knows, maybe an important site will be named for you!

Two people looking at bones within the Bonebed Enclosure Building

Dr. Larry Agenbroad led the first professional excavations at the Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed in the early 1970's. They revealed that something catastrophic had suddenly killed several hundred of the largest, most powerful creatures on the plains. Paleoindian hunters were the prime suspects.

Stone artifacts found near the bones were identified with the ancient Alberta culture that existed 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. These plains hunters relied heavily upon bison for their survival as did later inhabitants.

Beginning in 1991, new excavations led by Dr. Larry Todd and Dr. Dave Rapson, directed researchers to explore new theories of what occurred near a small isolated spring on the high plains nearly 10,000 years ago. But, it's still a mystery that intrigues both visitors and scientists from around the world. Coming from as far as Russia and Japan, scientists visit Hudson-Meng to better understand Paleoindian archeology, bonebed formation processes, environmental changes over time, and a host of other topics that can be investigated at this rich outdoor laboratory.