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found fossils; excellent sites



Like some others, I am usually content to read the sometimes excellent 
discussions about *archosaurs* and our collective pursuit of paleoknowledge. 
 Often however, much of the bandwidth is dedicated, in a curiously indirect 
manner, to the issues surrounding fossil collecting.  This week, as has 
happened in the past, the debate seemed to be a bit top-heavy with hard-line 
voices.

I guess its time to put on my flame-retardant suit,  and give some small 
measure of support to those who have been brave enough to risk being 
scorched for their views.  

I just returned from a very small town in north-eastern Washington State.  
The town of Republic harbors a fossil collecting site right at the north end 
of Main Street. The *Stonerose Interpretive Center and Fossil Dig* is an 
economic and cultural asset to Republic, a town that otherwise is subject to 
the variances of its mining industry.  Here, transcribed exactly and in 
full, are the rules for fossil collecting:

-------begin transcription-----
Rules for Fossil Hunting
(Please read before looking for fossils)

Welcome to the Stonerose Interpretive Center and Fossil Dig.  These fossils, 
a non-renewable resource, are owned and operated by the Friends of Stonerose 
Fossils, a non-profit organization.  In order to protect this resource for 
education, recreation and scientific research, a permit must be obtained 
from the Stonerose Interpretive Center and the following ruses must be observed.

1.  Searching for or removing fossils is permitted only after registering at 
the Stonerose Interpretive Center and only during the hours the Center is 
open.  10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday May 3rd through 
October 29th, 1994.  10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Sundays June 12th through 
September 11th, 1994

2.  Visitors and students are allowed to keep a maximum of three fossils daily.

3.  All fossils are to be shown to the Stonerose Curator for identification. 
 The Stonerose Interpretive Center reserves the right to retain any fossil 
that is significant to the Stonerose collection or is of scientific value.

4.  Searching for fossils is at your own risk.  Proper tools are available 
for rent ($2.50) per set) at the Stonerose Interpretive Center.  A donation 
of $1.00 per person or $2.00 per family is requested.

5.  Do not look for fossils in areas set aside for scientific research.

------end of transcription-------

Seattle's modest (and only) paleo center, The University of Washington's 
Burke Museum, supports The Stonerose Interpretive Center, a publicly 
accessible fossil site in the town of Republic.  This is the same Burke 
Museum that is providing logistical/organizational/and administrative 
support to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's annual conference  this 
October;  same people, same museum.

Did I mention that the fossils are (predominately) leaves, twigs, cones and 
other plant imprints?  A short tour of the town, on foot if you wish, will 
make you aware that there are other, fossiliferous outcroppings of the same 
horizon.  These, you will notice, show no signs of being 'worked'.  The 
Stonerose Center, as you have read above, gets first opportunity to claim 
specimens from the daily haul.  A resident curator examines each fossil, and 
keeps unusual, new or otherwise attractive specimens.  After having isolated 
and identified well over two-hundred species in the past 18 years, the 
resident curator seldom exercises the option.  

This commercially viable enterprise (non-profit, my butt!) attracted over 
9,000 'donation' paying visitors last summer.  These nine thousand folks 
stayed in motels, bought meals, paid for gas, corn-nuts and other stuff.  
The Burke Museum houses the important fossils (340 miles away, in Seattle), 
families have a unique opportunity to collect very attractive fossils, and 
the town of Republic enjoys a welcome addition to its economic base.  
Thousands of people each summer enjoy hands-on, up close and personal, 
fossil gathering.  A few are bitten by the paleo-bug and inspired to learn 
more about natural history.  

Personally I find it a bit amusing, imagining the double-talk that goes on 
around the Burke Museum, when they try to reconcile their affiliation with 
both the SVP and Stonerose Center.  Nevertheless, they and the Friends of 
Stonerose Fossils are to be congratulated on having the courage and 
creativity to facilitate paleontology (largest, most variable Eocene flora 
ever assembled) AND support public access to public resources.

Meanwhile....... The Montana Wildlife Association, in their 
August/September, 1994 *Montana Wildlife*, announces a break-through 
agreement.  I can't transcribe the whole thing here, but here is part:

----- begin selective transcript------
 *A Summary of New State Land Access Rules*
  Recreational Activities Expanded   -  All recreational activities of a 
non-concentrated, non-commercial nature are now allowed except that:  1) 
trapping, woodgathering, tree cutting, commercial rock hounding, 
paleontological disturbances and mineral exploration and development require 
special permits  ...........
{several paragraphs later}  To engage on recreational use of state lands, 
the recreationist must purchase a $5 recreational license. ......
-----end selective transcript------

I don't know what 'paleontological disturbances' are, nor what is required 
to get a special permit.  You can write them, as I have, at Montana Wildlife 
Federation - P.O. Box 1175, Helena, Mt 59624-1175 for more info.  

In my opinion, these regulations allow (with a $5 recreation permit) surface 
collection of fossils.  I suspect, if a lucky collector were to find an 
interesting theropod skull, partially exposed in State-owned badlands, it 
might be a good idea to find out what a paleontological disturbance might 
comprise.  

Some folks seem to advocate an exclusionary approach, whereby a small number 
of practicing professionals (and their immediate families and friends, of 
course) will regulate all fossil access.  Under these circumstances, I doubt 
if many amateurs will be in a big hurry to share their discoveries. 

 At any rate, there is some modest evidence that regulators are able to find 
creative and reasonable ways to 'encourage' amateur enthusiasts to bring 
important finds to the attention of practicing professional paleontologists. 
 Others (myself included) have come to the opinion that there is already 
enough PUBLIC land under the exclusive domain of special-interest groups, 
quantities of land so large (i.e., the Petrified Forest National Park in 
Arizona, to just name one) that the trustees can't possibly deal with all of 
it.  

The National Wildlife Associate is a powerful advocate of non-destructive 
use, by the public (us) of public lands.  I find that their views on many 
land-use issues coincide with mine, and I sure like their advocacy of access 
for amateurs.
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Joe Small - Amateur Paleontologist &   Editor of 'Bone Bug Journal,
                                       Field Notes':
                                       Twice-monthly newsletter of
bonebug@halcyon.com                    amateur paleontology
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