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Erik Pauls wrote:
>...I'm surprised that
>nobody has brought up the Baucus bill. This bill is an attempt to make
>governmental policy towards vertebrate fossils on federal land explicit
>and consistant. There was a commentary in Time (or Newsweek) that knocked
>the Baucus bill saying that it would stop boy scouts from collecting
>fossils. That is just one of the untruths currently circulating about the
>bill. I strongly suggest that you read the whole text. I don't have the
>ability (time) to reproduce the whole bill here, but you can check it out
>in the February 1994 (number 160) Society of Vertebrate Paleontology News
>Bulletin. In general, I'm against adding new laws. We've got too damn
>many overlapping and contradictory rules and regulations as it is. In
>this case I support the addition because it clarifies relationships,
>defines terms, and makes policy _explicit_. Beyond the bill, I firmly
>believe that what paleontology really needs is the level of
>volunteer-professional-amateur coordination that bird groups such as the
>Audoban Society. It was Bob Bakker that expressed this sentiment quite
>nicely in "The Dinosaur Heresies." Working together makes more sense than
>legislating paleontology out the wazoo. While the Baucus bill only
>applies to public lands it establishes a frame work and sets a tone.
Nobody likes to talk about the Baucus bill for the same reasons that
they don't like to talk about their last root canal surgery :-)
Since you've read the bill, you understand why SUE or that Mastadon ad
have nothing to do with it and would not be affected by it, since they
were found on private land(I know SUE was and presume the Mastadon was).
The Baucus bill is one of the worst pieces of legislation I've ever read.
A far superior bill is the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of
1993, sometimes referred to as the "House Bill". Curious that you would
even mention Dr. Bakker's name in a posting that supports the Baucus
bill. Are you aware of his position on the issue?
What's wrong with the Baucus bill?
1) The Baucus bill violates virtually every recommendation of the 1987
National Academy of Sciences report on paleontological collecting.
2) The Baucus bill assumes that protecting paleontological resources
on public lands requires restricting access to public lands and
fossils. Certain federal land management agencies think this is a
good idea because it would justify increased budgets for them to
staff up the necessary enforcement and surveillence personnel, along
with the managers and bureaucratic infrastructure to oversee it.
3) The Baucus bill mandates that violators be charged with felonies
carrying prison terms and outrageous fines, merely for picking up
4) The Baucus bill does not represent a consensus even within the small
academic community of paleontologists. When you add the larger paleo
community including all amateur societies, the American Association
of Museums, the American Association of Paleontological Suppliers,
the consensus is overwhelmingly against this lemon.
Why is the House Bill better?
1) The House bill is scientifically sound and abides by the 1987 NAS
recommendations. It encourages fossil collecting which preserves
the resource and mitigates the largest danger (by far) to the
preservation of fossils, i.e. erosion. The House bill is designed
to *increase* the probability that fossils on public lands will be
discovered/preserved before they erode into dust.
The Baucus bill is based on the obviously flawed theory that if we
can just keep the majority of our citizens from collecting, fossils
will be preserved.
2) The House bill would result in an order of magnitude more fossils
collected, which will maximize the benefit to science. If you over-
restrict amateurs like Baucus would, you bite the hand that's fed
scientific knowledge and museum collections for the past century.
3) The House bill would benefit museums, universities and earth science
classes by allowing permit-free access for field trips and educational
groups for casual collecting. This would provide more specimens for
study and display at all educational levels.
4) The House bill is fiscally responsible and will not require more
tax dollars to fund the agencies that manage this resource. It will
encourage fossil preservation by applying common sense to the issue
rather than Draconian sanctions, higher taxes, and empire building in