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Alberta Law and dinos
I am new to this mail list and therefor may be dredging up old
I was reading Mark V.H. Wilson's article "Paleontology in Alberta:
A case of Excessive Regulation" in the booklet "Alberta, Studies in the
Arts and Sciences, Vol.1, No.1, 1988. (University of Alberta).
Much of the book deals with the wonderful Royal Tyrrell Museum of
Paleontology, situated in Drumheller, Alberta. The museum is a great
legacy to the $ multi-billion Heritage Fund, financed by the Oil Boom.
Impressive. But Wilson's article struck a negative note when discussing
the laws in Alberta with respect to collection of paleontological
specimens. The law of July 5, 1978 essentially makes all fossils the
property of the Provincial Gov't and requires registration of private
collections and potential confiscation.
I had the opportunity 2 years ago to visit some of the rock shops and
local collectors of Drumheller. It was a sad affair. Rather than praise
the virtues of the Royal Tyrrell, the shop owners said that it was the
worste thing to happen to Drumheller since the coal mines closed.
Apparently, the local tourist economy has been virtually destroyed.
Most tourists are so overwelmed by the meg-displays at Tyrrell and the
wonderful gift shop, they don't bother to enter the town of Drumheller
or the local Chamber of Commerce museum. They go back to Calgary or
Edmonton after Tyrrell. The government has confiscated the local
When my wife and I got married in the tiny church located in the
Badlands (near Tyrrell) back in 1969, the area was a mecca for
rockhounds. The local merchants provided "grass roots" enthusiasm
and guidance and everyone prospered. Now with Tyrrell and the new
collection laws, nobody is collecting and the Tyrrell caters to the
Jurassic Park crowd rather than the field naturalists.
Local collectors tell me horror stories of specimens that were
registered with the government and then conveniently "lost".
The best collections of fossils and minerals in the museums of the world
were not assembled by professionals. They are the labour of love of
hobbyists. The museum located in downtown Drumheller was created by
local hobby efforts without Heritage Fund $ millions. They deserve
recognition for fostering public awareness for the decades before
Tyrrell. Furthermore, the paleontologists at Tyrrell are more
interested in travels to China and the Arctic at public expense. Why
not free the local rockhounds to finding good stuff at home? If
rockhounds don't collect each season, the weathering of the
Edmonton formation will destroy the specimens anyway.
The conservation of rare fossils is a laudable goal but the destruction
of amateur collection and the local tourist economy is not.
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