It was millions of years in the making, but Utahraptor is now Utah’s official state dinosaur — or it will be on May 8.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed SB43 into law Friday and it takes effect, like most bills, 60 days after the end of the legislative session.

Ten-year-old Kenyon Roberts first proposed the bill to Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, a family friend — and argued in House and Senate hearings that it should be honored in part because it has been found only in Utah, has the state’s name, and is the largest of all raptors.

Bramble noted in debate how Utahraptor rescued Steven Spielberg and makers of the movie “Jurassic Park” from embarrassment — and brought attention to Utah.

The raptors pictured in that movie were larger than humans, “but all the raptors found up to that time were only about the size of wild turkeys,” Bramble said. The large Utahraptor was discovered a few months after release of the movie, showing it could have been the large raptor pictured.

Bramble initially proposed that Utahraptor replace Allosaurus as the state fossil. But State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who discovered Utahraptor, persuaded him instead to create a new state dinosaur.

Among them are the state bird (sea gull), flower (sego lily), insect (honeybee), rock (coal), tree (quaking aspen), winter sports (skiing and snowboarding), firearm (Browning M1911 pistol), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and historic vegetable (sugar beet).


Feb. 21: Utahraptor roars as new state dinosaur in Capitol

The Utahraptor finished tearing its way through the Legislature on Monday toward becoming the new state dinosaur.

The House approved SB41 on a 67-0 vote, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. The Senate earlier also approved it unanimously.

“It’s been millions of years in the making, and it’s time,” said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, the House sponsor of the bill.

Ten-year-old Kenyon Roberts first proposed the bill to Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, a family friend — and argued in House and Senate hearings that it should be honored in part because it has been found only in Utah, has the state’s name, and is the largest of all raptors.

Bramble earlier noted how Utahraptor rescued Steven Spielberg and makers of the movie “Jurassic Park” from embarrassment — and brought attention to Utah.

The raptors pictured in that movie were larger than humans, “but all the raptors found up to that time were only about the size of wild turkeys,” Bramble said. The large Utahraptor was discovered a few months after release of the movie, showing it could have been the large raptor pictured.

Bramble initially proposed that Utahraptor replace Allosaurus as the state fossil. But State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who discovered Utahraptor, persuaded him instead to create a new state dinosaur.

Among them are the state fossil (Allosaurus), state bird (sea gull), flower (sego lily), insect (honeybee), rock (coal), tree (quaking aspen), winter sports (skiing and snowboarding), firearm (Browning M1911 pistol), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and historic vegetable (sugar beet).

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Designate Utahraptor as the official state dinosaur. - Read full text

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Feb. 12: Utahraptor rips way through Senate toward becoming the state dinosaur

The Utahraptor easily ripped its way through the Utah Senate on Monday, clawing its way closer to becoming the official state dinosaur.

The Senate voted unanimously to pass SB41 and sent it to the House.

That came as 10-year-old Kenyon Roberts, who first proposed the bill, stood on the Senate floor by sponsoring Sen. Curt Bramble — and as State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who discovered Utahraptor, watched nearby.

Utahraptor itself, at least parts of one, also stood watch in the Capitol. Replica casts of its skull, thigh, foot and claws were on display in the Capitol’s Hall of Governors, much to the noisy delight of schoolchildren on field trips there.

“You know I’ve been a cynic on state symbols” from the state cooking pot [Dutch oven] to the state folk dance [square dance], said Bramble, R-Provo. “But this one seems to be unique.”

Utah “is the only place on the planet where this particular dinosaur has been discovered,” and probably the only place it ever will be found because of unique geology here that was “able to preserve this particular species.”

Bramble noted how Utahraptor rescued Steven Spielberg and makers of the movie “Jurassic Park” from embarrassment — and brought attention to Utah.

The raptors pictured in that movie were larger than humans, “but all the raptors found up to that time were only about the size of wild turkeys,” Bramble said. The large Utahraptor was found a few months after release of the movie, showing it could have been the large raptor pictured.

At Bramble’s suggestion, the Senate tested young Roberts’ knowledge of dinosaurs by giving him a letter of the alphabet to see if he could name a dinosaur that started with it, and provide information.

When he was given the letter X by Sen. Jacob Anderegg to try to stump him, Roberts quickly said, “Xenotarsosaurus was a theropod like Utahraptor. Theropods are dinosaurs that walk on two legs, and most species ate meat. Xenotarsosaurus looked a lot like its cousin Carnotaurus.” After the quick answer, he said, “Next.”


(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) As Senators call out letters of the alphabet Kenyon Roberts, 10 from Draper, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, laugh as Roberts names dinosaurs starting with that letter in the Senate chambers at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City Friday February 2, 2018. Roberts and Bramble are looking to name the Utahraptor the State dinosaur.

“Slam on Senator Anderegg,” said Senate President Wayne Niderhauser, R-Sandy, amid laughs. He later added that young Roberts “was just like an encyclopedia of dinosaurs.”

Among them are the state fossil (Allosaurus), state bird (seagull), flower (sego lily), insect (honeybee), rock (coal), tree (quaking aspen),winter sports (skiing and snowboarding), firearm (Browning M1911pistol), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and historic vegetable (sugarbeet).

Feb. 2: Utahraptor claws closer to becoming state dinosaur

A 10-year-old cleared the political path Friday for the 123-million-year-old Utahraptor to claw its way closer to becoming the official state dinosaur.

In rapid-fire-fashion testimony, young Kenyon Roberts rattled off reason after reason to pass SB43 to make that new designation — persuading the Senate Economic Development Committee to vote unanimously for it. It now goes to the full Senate.

“The Utahraptor is a very unique dinosaur to the state,” found only here, Kenyon Roberts, son of GOP activist Jeremy Roberts, said.

“It’s speed was phenomenal. Thanks to its lightweight body and strong muscles, it could run up to speeds of 20 mph.”

He added, “This dinosaur was a theropod. Theropods are the dinosaurs kids love, like T-Rex, the dinosaurs that walk on two legs and eat everything in their path.”

He adds it was big enough to have been the smart, deadly raptor pictured in the movie, “Jurassic Park.” The discovery of Utahraptor shortly after release of the movie helped save filmmakers from criticism that the raptors found until then had been only the size of turkeys.

At the invitation of Bramble, committee members took turns naming a letter of the alphabet — and Kenyon quickly named a dinosaur whose name began with that letter and major relevant facts.

When he was given the letter X, for example, he said without hesitation, “Xenotarsosaurus was a dinosaur from the Jurassic period. It was a carnivore. A theropod, like T-Rex and Utahraptor, and looked a lot like its cousin Carnotaurus.”

“I’m very excited that some of my discoveries are helping our youth get their interest in politics,” said Jim Kirkland, the Utah state paleontologist who discovered Utahraptor. He told Kenyon he is retiring soon, so his position may be open to him.

“I was lucky enough to discover Utahraptor in 1990,” he said. He noted it is only found in Grand County, and was even bigger and perhaps nastier than the raptors in Jurassic Park — standing more than 7 feet tall.

Rod Scheetz, curator of the BYU Museum of Paleontology, said, “We have kids coming in every day and they expect to see Utahraptor because they ‘know’ it’s the state dinosaur” even though it has never been given that designation. He urged lawmakers not to disappoint them.

Sen. Curt Bramble, the sponsor, originally wrote his bill to have Utahraptor replace Allosaurus as the official state fossil. Kirkland and others persuaded him not to do that, because most of the best Allosaurus finds have also been in Utah. So he reached a compromise to make Allosaurus the state dinosaur, and leave Allosaurus as the state fossil.

Among them are the state bird (seagull), flower (sego lily), cooking pot (Dutch oven), insect (honeybee), rock (coal), tree (quaking aspen), winter sports (skiing and snowboarding), firearm (Browning M1911 pistol), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and historic vegetable (sugar beet).

Jan. 22: Fight between Allosaurus and Utahraptor called off in Legislature

A fight millions of years in the making between Allosaurus and Utahraptor has been avoided.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says he’s been persuaded to rewrite SB43 and stop pushing to have Utahraptor replace Allosaurus as the state fossil. Instead, the bill now would add Utahraptor as the new official state dinosaur.

“Both will have their moments of fame,” he said. Bramble originally had been convinced by a 10-year-old dinosaur fanatic, Kenyon Roberts, that Utahraptor was more worthy of the state designation, so he introduced the bill.

But after initial publicity, Bramble said, “I was contacted by a few paleontologists. They gave me the history of both the Allosaurus and Utahraptor and suggested we keep the Allosaurus as the state fossil and establish a state dinosaur. They made a compelling case for both.”

Among those who have made that argument is Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland — discoverer of Utahraptor. “The main reason I am the state paleontologist is that I discovered Utahraptor. Utahraptor has been very, very good to me…. I am the world authority on Utahraptor,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier.

He said that discovery was made about 1990 near Arches National Park. He, Robert Gaston and Donald Burge described the dinosaur and named it in 1993 — not long after the original “Jurassic Park” film was released that year. That turned into a godsend for the movie.

Filmmakers had doubled the size of Velociraptors, leading to complaints from dinosaur lovers. “About the same time, we announced our animal,” which was twice as large as any known raptor, Kirkland said.

“And the press said, ‘Steven Spielberg’s giant raptors are vindicated.’ So it made the No. 7 science story of the year in Time magazine, and the cover of Discovery magazine,” he said. “It was pretty exciting stuff.”

However, Kirkland argues there are plenty of reasons also to honor Allosaurus.

“The first state paleontologist, Jim Madsen, was the world’s authority on Allosaurus,” Kirkland said, and “it was largely through his work that Allosaurus became the state fossil” in 1988 — a few years before Utahraptor was discovered.

He adds that the Cleveland-Lloyd quarry in Utah provided more than 50 Allosaurus specimens, from 3-foot-long juveniles to 35-foot-long adults. The high number of specimens there made Allosaurus the best understood large carnivorous dinosaur.

While 43 states have a state dinosaur and/or fossil, Utah is the only one to honor Allosaurus, and none has selected Utahraptor.

Among them are the state bird (sea gull), flower (sego lily), cooking pot (Dutch oven), insect (honeybee), rock (coal), tree (quaking aspen), winter sports (skiing and snowboarding), firearm (Browning M1911 pistol), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and historic vegetable (sugar beet).