A research team from Binghamton University was sifting through fossil soils at a quarry behind the Cairo Highway Department when they discovered the root system of trees thought to be 385 million years old, dating back to the Devonian age. Their discovery was published in the scientific journal Current Biology in December. So began the scientific world’s rapt interest in Cairo and its prehistoric forest.

Cut to the present day. Cairo officials intend to work in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene and Columbia Counties to protect and preserve this remarkable and priceless natural resource through educational opportunities, examination of our own ancient past and prediction of future environmental changes while welcoming visitors to the area to appreciate the site.

A proposal that town officials are working on with Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, and state Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, includes estimates for fencing to protect the site from interlopers, Town Supervisor John Coyne said Wednesday. This is a fundamental but smart first step for the town to take. And at $1,500 for a simple chain-link fence, this part of the proposal is prudent, as well.

The forest, estimated to be 385 million years old, dates from the Devonian period and is the oldest known prehistoric forest in the world. It is a monumental discovery for Cairo and the Catskills Region. Having the world’s oldest fossilized forest right in our own backyard offers a remarkable opportunity to look into the past. A find of this magnitude offers a treasure trove of educational opportunities that someday could give us a new science.

The world is watching. The forest is an unqualified gem not only for Greene County, but the entire scope of scientific inquiry. It must be preserved and secured so scientists everywhere can study and learn more about where we’ve been and where we are going.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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