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I am sorry that I was presumptious about Paul and the BHI.

Paul wrote:
>To be fair, many dealers do an excellent job at this [documentation], 
>but it can always improve.

Absolutely, I have to deal with this issue constantly and can state that 
dealers tend to try their hardest to supply as much information as 
possible.....when pressed.  One problem I have come across is the 
dealer/collector conflict where the collector will not provide the 
information to the dealer for fear that the dealer will then collect for 

Paul, after a rather crude generalisation by me,  goes on to say:
>So Neil, what you are saying is that the loss of over 99% of 
>specimens to science is acceptable to you, while this fraction of one 
>percent  is not.

Yes, it is more acceptable to me than theft.  I do not like to see 
specimens destroyed by natural or unnatural causes and do my best 
to save as much as possible.  I also encourage dealers and amateur 
collectors in this country (Scotland) to collect from particular areas.  I 
do not encourage collecting from special sites requiring protection 
against over-collecting and that are not prone to erosive forces or 
weathering.  In Scotland there is no law of trespass, nor is there any 
legislation covering fossils.  The only provision is under damage to 
property.  I believe that, and know of, sites of special scientific 
interest (SSSI) that need to be protected from collecting and erosion.  I 
also encourage collecting from SSSI's where erosion is destroying 
specimens, but I also encourage the collector to seek permission 
from the landowners and the proper government body (in my case 
this is the Scottish Natural Heritage).  I also support their application 
in many cases and have a group of collectors and dealers who 
regularly go to such sites.

Not being in the US the House Bill vs Baucus does not concern me 
directly, but I do follow with interest....and worry that too much 
legislation can also be a bad thing.

As for your philosophies 1-4....I do not subscribe to any of these and 
hope that I have been able to make this clear.

On the Cope-Marsh tradition of smashing fossils so the other guy 
can't get their hands on them, I think that I mentioned one case of this 
in Scotland where rare Devonian fish were smashed because the 
dealer who was collecting couldn't carry them all, and so destroyed 
the surplus so that no-one else could have them.

I don't know what museums are like in the US with regards to 
collecting policies.  The Hunterian Museum is lucky, here in Scotland, 
to have a collecting policy because we are a university museum and 
have an obligation to look after new research material.  As a result, 
we have over 2million specimens and a lack of space to keep them.  
Most museums in the UK, as far as I am aware, either have no 
collecting policy or a restricted collecting policy....thus many 
specimens are lost because the museums cannot handle the number 
of specimens collected.  One big problem is in assessing what is, 
and what isn't, a scientifically important specimen...we cannot be 
experts in all fields of palaeontology...and I'm sure many specimens 
also get lost that way too. 

 I don't believe, certainly in this country, that 99% of specimens are 
lost by erosion.  I think that a lot are lost by collecting and also 
promoting erosion by collecting.  This might seem to be in 
contradiction to what I have said earlier in this note, but I think that 
people try to collect what they feel (subjectively) are important 
specimens and leave a large number of others to erode and weather. 
 I hear this complaint constantly from palaeobotanists who see 
arthropod collectors, brachiopod collectors, dinosaur collectors, 
collecting what interests them and leaving the plants to rot.  

I don't believe there is an ultimate solution to all these problems.  We 
can only do our bestest.

Neil Clark
Curator of Palaeontology
Hunterian Museum
University of Glasgow
email: NCLARK@museum.gla.ac.uk

Some large dinosaurs had three horns and were called
triceps, others had two horns and were called biceps.
(Geological Howlers - ed. WDI Rolfe)