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Editorial: ‘Dakota’ belongs in North Dakota

In the snirt blizzard of political news, North Dakotans might want to take a short break to focus on the past -- the prehistoric past. It looks like groundwork has been laid to purchase one of the world's rarest dinosaur fossils, which was uneart...

In the snirt blizzard of political news, North Dakotans might want to take a short break to focus on the past - the prehistoric past.

It looks like groundwork has been laid to purchase one of the world’s rarest dinosaur fossils, which was unearthed in southwestern North Dakota and has been on display in the new

Heritage Center in Bismarck. But it’s not a sure thing that “Dakota” will stay in its home state. The slowdown in oil activity means active fundraising to match dollars appropriated by the

Legislature also will slow down, and not take off until next year. The time isn’t right to solicit big donations from industry, business groups or individuals, said Marlo Sveen, development director of the State Historical Society Foundation.

Sveen is probably right. But the energy sector slowdown in no way diminishes the extraordinary value of the fossil. It has become associated with North Dakota but has attained a worldwide reputation among paleontologists and other researchers because the fossilized remains include skin and muscle. That’s extremely rare. There are museums and research institutions all over the world that would like Dakota in their collections.

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It’s a North Dakota dinosaur, having been found in 1999 by a student on family land. The story of the find has been written up in science journals and in a book (adult and young person’s versions) by the student who made the find. It’s a fascinating story of a major discovery that has its roots in the rugged North Dakota southwest.

When the fundraising cranks up again early next year, consider helping the state keep Dakota at the Heritage Center. It’s an amazing part of the state’s prehistoric past. It should have a permanent home in Bismarck.

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