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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