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Re: Poling and the FPA



>To: listserv@lepomis.psych.upenn.edu
>From: mstern@baker.cnw.com (Michael Sternberg)
>Subject: Re: Poling and the FPA
>
>Mr. Maxwell,
>
>The _Fossil Preservation Act of 1995_ is the culmination of nearly a
decade's worth of definition, negotiation, and compromise.  It is the *only*
proposed legislation that embraces all 10 findings of the National Academy
of Sciences (NAS)Committee on Guidelines for Paleontological Collecting
(1987) which was multidisciplined in membership.
>
>Your specific claims for invalidating the proposed legislation are as follows:
>
>>It is designed not to promote the science of paleontology and accommodate
both amateur and professional paleontologists, but rather to advantage a few
commercial collectors bent solely on financial gain through the sale of
Federal Property.<
>
>Sec. 2 (a)(5) access to fossils on Federal lands should be provided to
research scientists, educators, amateur collectors, and commercial entities
under proper guidelines, but collecting that-
>
>(A) separates scientifically unique fossils from their geological and
paleontological contexts,
>(B) removes the scientifically unique fossil from the realm of public
education, display, or scientific study or
>(C) interferes with ongoing excavation by researchers engaged in permitted
studies  or excavations, decreases the benefit of Federal lands for the
people of the United States; and
>(D) scientifically unique fossils, as determined by the Council should be
deposited in Institutions where there are established research, educational
and training programs in paleontology.
>
>>Do you, having read through the bill, believe that the proposed National
Fossil Council will be either qualified to, or capable of, performing all
its tasks?<
>
>The National Fossil council consists of eight people: USGS representative,
NMNH recommendation, SVP recommendation, Paleontological Society
recommendation, Dept of Interior and USDA recommendation, one recommended by
commercial interests (AAPS), one recommended by amateur collectors (MAPS and
AFMS).  The language of the bill does not prescribe their functions in great
detail.  However, there would exist a knowledgable board to make
determinations that help safeguard the scientific value of fossils.  What
additional language would you propose?
>
>>Do you believe that it is proper that fossils occurring on the surface can be 
>pocketed by anyone?<
>
>Yes
>
>> Do you believe that fossils will not be lost to the private market?<
>
>Fossils are, have been, and will be lost to the private market.  But they
really are small potatoes to those lost through non-discovery.  Does it make
a difference if they are from private or public lands?  Rhetorically, how
many fossils can the private market absorb relative to those lost through
natural consequences?  No legislation would prevent the marketing of fossils.
>
>> In current form the FPA will allow commercial collectors to dance through
yawning loopholes and procure fossils for their own gain and satisfaction.<
>
>Please point them out to me, for I fail to see them in the draft language-
>
>
>Sec. 4(c)(3) Quarrying -Collecting fossils on public lands through
excavation may only be conducted pursuant to a permit.
>Sec. 4(f) Commercial Collecting Permits - a permit for collecting fossils
from Federal lands for sale, barter, or exchange shall be issued pursuant to
an application under subsection (d) if -
>    (1) the applicant agrees-
>        (A)that the fossils to be extracted are for a commercial purpose;
>        (B)to pay the fee established by the Federal land manager in
consultation
>           with the Council for the right to extract the permitted resources;
>        (C)to deposit the paleontological records and data associated with the 
>           commercial excavation with the United States Geological Survey;
>        (D)to report any scientifically unique specimens or sites discovered 
>           during activities carried out under the commercial permit to the 
>           agency issuing the permit and that scientifically unique
specimens will
>           be the property of the United States and be deposited in an
institution
>           as defined in Section 4(e)(2); and
>        (E)to file a report with the permit granting agency describing all 
>           excavated materials;
>    (2)the Federal land manager determines that the activity is consistent
with 
>       any management plan applicable to the Federal lands concerned; and
>    (3)the permit application has been reviewed by the Federal land manager in 
>       consultation with the Chair of the Council.
>
>While admittedly, specimens will be lost to the market place, important
fossils remain the property of the United States {Sec 4 (f)(1)(D)}.
Further, stratigraphic, taphonomic and paleoecological data plus the
description of the fossils themselves preserve a hell of a lot more
information than a rotting fossil.  What evidences do you have for a
sizeable market for prepared vertebrate fossils whose costs could easily
reach $250-500,000 US?  And further, why does it seem that there is such a
strong vertebrate bias in the complaints, as anyone knows, the invert fauna
provide a wealth of information that a Maiasaur could never.  And then there
are the fossil plants.  There is such a strong interest in Animalia that no
one ever cries "foul" when it comes to plant fossils.
>
>Having spent three days with a curator of paleobotany in the field studying
Eocene plants, I can safely say that floral taphonomy tells a lot bigger
story than most vertebrate fossils alone.
>
>There is a longstanding prejudice against both amateurs and commercial
interests by *some* of the academic community. Just how many of us amateurs
have discovered, extracted and prepared for display a single vertebrate
fossil?  How many, in juxtapostion, have discovered *and reported* important
finds for eventual collection and preservation?  The Sternberg Family worked
the field commercially, not for a private market but for the museum market.
Each left a lasting legacy of integrity in collecting, preparation and
documentation (consistent with the times) as well as notable contributions
to the science as well.  This was because of the close involvement with the
paleontologists of the time.
>
>If there is anything lacking in the FPA 1995, it is the mandating that
Federally funded museums and educational institutions provide (for fee, not
free) an honest to god real course in fossil collection that trains the
individual in stratigraphy, mapping, extraction, consolidation, preservation
and preparation.  Plus documentation and description.  Utah state and Denver
Museum of Natural History have such programs in place.
>
>Regards!
>