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Re: Baucus bill



Okay Erik, here's a hypothetical situation for you to ponder.
A hiker is walking along a wash somewhere out west. They look down 
on the ground and spot an object. They bend down for a closer look.
There are thunderheads approaching. Suspecting it might be a dinosaur
claw, and knowing the rain will bury it in a few hours, they stick
it in their pocket so they can bring it to a local university or
museum for analysis.

Suddenly, a federal marshall approaches, demanding to see their permit.
They respond, permit for what? He punches up some coordinates on a GPS
receiver, confirming that they are on federal lands. A body search 
reveals what is later identified as a dinosaur claw. The person is
later sentenced to 1 year in prison and a $10,000 fine because they
just saved a fossil from being lost to the elements, and in the process
violated section 11 of the Baucus bill.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Well that's what is possible under the Baucus
bill, which states that "No person may excavate, disturb, remove, damage, 
or otherwise alter or deface a vertebrate paleontological resource located 
on Federal lands unless pursuant to a permit issued under section 8 or 9". 
[Section 11, Prohibited Acts]

Can you see the difference between a permit required for backpacking
(issued to prevent overcrowding and your own safety) and a permit that, 
if you don't have it, can land you with these types of penalties? Not only 
are they harsh and extreme, but they will only serve to scare some amateurs 
so much that they will not report discoveries. Even the act of hammering in 
tent stakes might be considered a "defacement of paleontological resource".
New scientific data will slow to a trickle, and be spoon fed by those
politically connected enough to acquire all the necessary permits.
-----------------------------------
>From section 12 of the Baucus bill:

First violation - 1 yr in prison, $10,000 fine, or both
(this is if the "paleontological resource" is valued at less than $500,
if it's greater, than the penalty is 2 years and $20,000)

Second violation - 5 yrs in prison, $100,000 fine, or both

I'm no lawyer, but these don't sound like misdemeanor penalties. 
-----------------------------------
Picture a courtroom of the future, the first defendant is convicted
of drunken driving and pays a $500 fine, loses his drivers license for 
1 year, and spends 30 days in the slammer. The second defendant is
convicted of picking up a T. rex tooth, and since it has a value
greater than $500, he is sentenced to $20,000 fine and two years in
federal prison. Baucus is such a bad bill, it should be rejected out 
of hand. I hope my rather absurd meanderings get you thinking about
what we should really do.

For the record, here's a comparative summary, Baucus vs House bill.

                   Baucus Bill                    House Bill
_____________________________________________________________________
PREMISE    Only academic institutions are     All interested persons
           capable of collecting fossils.     should be encouraged to
                                              collect fossils in a 
                                              responsible way.
PUBLIC LAND
ACCESS         Limited to academics.             Open to all.


PERMITS          Required for everyone.       Required only for major
                                              excavations.

EXCAVATION   Academic only. Other collectors  All interested parties
             not allowed to excavate fossils. encouraged to locate and
                                              collect fossils.
SUPPORTS NAS
REPORT(1987)           NO                            YES

OWNERSHIP     No private or institutional      Private and institutional
OF SPECIMEN   ownership. Fed gov't retains     ownership guaranteed for
              title to every specimen.         specimens not of scientific
                                               significance.
COST TO
IMPLEMENT      Millions of $$$ annually.        Negligible

OVERALL        Restricts science,               Promotes science,
IMPACT         promotes bureaucracy.            limits bureaucracy.