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Re: Sereno et al. and African

>  There are two bills that will go before the U.S. congress, possibly in 
>next congress.  One is a pro-commercial bill; the other is more of
>an anti-commercial bill.  Non-commercial amateurs are also dealt with in
>both bills. .. <snip>..  I think this group could
>be valuable in providing feedback, as both bills are still being drafted.

Having dealt with this previously on the rocks_and_fossils forum, I guess 
I'll offer $0.02 worth here:  be careful. This is an extremely emotional 
issue for some, calling into play the Sagebrush Rebellion, property rights 
groups, State's Rights, etc. There is also a strong undercurrent of distrust 
for *any* business organization. The term "fossil mining" seems to be red 
meat for those who do not favor any commercial permits, period. The idea of 
selling fossils, be they surplus leafs, or the strange Web page which has 
Chinese dino eggs for $1.6 million, is anathema to some.

As a pre-emptive strike, what I've thought about is this:  professional 
paleontologists somehow identify the top priorities for land and study, and 
focus their energies on those areas and questions. If the top potential 
collecting sites are identified, then protected somehow, there would be far 
less potential for amateur or commercial ventures to get in and destroy 
valuable data in their greed or zeal. Likewise, important questions that 
require answers should be focused on, either through coordination from 
professional groups or some vote. That way a grad student from some obscure 
university isn't able to forbid the commercial collection of common 
gastropods just because he wants access to depositional records available 

What would be unfortunate is some "Paleontologists' Full Employment Act" 
that results because a scientist's report is required before anybody can 
even pick up float, dig a ditch, or otherwise disturb public lands. People 
cannot legally pick up an arrowhead now without contacting the nearest 
federal agency and getting permission. The result is people break the law 
and pick them up anyway.

Are there new collecting sites discovered all the time, or are the best 
areas already well known? I just wonder how much amateurs will contribute in 
the future, with many prime areas already being studied.

Sorry for the long post. I hope there is a compromise somewhere that ensures 
that commercial interests don't ruin vital data, but allows for common 
fossils to be available and not too expensive. I don't know if there is 
really a crisis yet, forcing Congress to act in haste, but I hope not.

Garret H. Romaine