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Re: Baucus Bill



>  Ask any Baucus-backer whether
>erosion poses a serious threat to fossil resources, and then observe the
>pathetic, intellectually-bankrupt squirming that follows. Furthermore,
>buying, selling and trading of specimens is desirable for many reasons.
>Museums, public institutions and private collectors all have the same
>scientific interest in diversifying their collections for reference
>and study purposes.



        You'll have explain how the commerical sale of fossils will expand
the collections of any public museum, few fo which could afford the prices.
As for ersoion, yes it is a destructive force.  It is only slightly more
destructive than collection of specimens by individuals who are doing so
for profit.  Collection w/ out an interest in the potential scientific
information of the specimens collected results in the destruction of the
geologic context from which specimens are found, as well as a bias toward
"sexy" specimens.



>  Fossils
>should be collected in a responsible fashion. Records and documentation
>should be given high priority. You can never know too much about
>collecting/preparation techniques and methodology. I think most people
>agree on these from an ethical standpoint. It's the restricted/monitored
>land access provisions of Baucus(totally unscientific) as well as the
>outrageous felony sanctions that unite amateurs in opposition.
>The Baucus Bill guarantees destruction by weathering of all surface
>fossils that the limited taxpayer dollars cannot afford to collect. It
>strictly forbids any commercial collecting and hogties amateurs with
>a still undescribed permit scheme.


        O.K., supposing the majority of collectors who do so for profit DO
collect in a scientifically responsible and accurate manner-      SO WHAT??
What good would it do when the specimen is purchased by private owners
(all of whom I'm sure would be VERY interested in the taphonomy and
geological context of their new mantle-piece trophy).  And, since the
majority of commerical fossils are not currently collected w/ such
scientific care, why is there the assumption that they ever would?

>
>The Baucus Bill represents a classic victory of politics over science.
>It's hard to believe that otherwise decent scientists will look you in
>the eyes and claim that it's better to allow fossils to erode into dust
>than allow amateurs or commercial ventures to collect them.

        Which is worse:  a fossil rerodes  away,  or is sold off and never
seen by the public, and/or turned into jewelry (I've personally seen
private collectors attempt to raid dinosaur quarries for the purposes of
obtaining agatized bone for jewelry)?
>
>WAKE UP!! It costs real money to get fossils from the field to display.
>As soon as you realize that there aren't enough taxpayer dollars to fund
>some grandiose paleo program, you start to look for ways to pay for the
>rescue of at least a portion of the tonnage lost to erosion annually. Are
>there commercial ventures willing to absorb the costs and take the risks?
>Are they qualified? The answer is yes to both questions.

        Yes there are commercial ventures willing to absorb costs, because
they're going to turn a hefty profit by selling fossils into the hands of
private owners.

>  We should make an effort to
>share any significant fossil discoveries with the public and the scientific
>community, but we should *not* be under threat of felony sanction to do so.
>

        And what will be your asking price to share fossil discoveries w/
paleontologists?


        Folks, for those out there that aren't familiar w/ the situation,
don't believe this hype!!  In the world of amateur collectors, there are
good guys and bad guys, plain and simple.  Many of the most important
discoveries made in paleontology have been made by amateurs.  Their
contributions are reflected often in the names of many fossil taxa:
Coloborynchus Waldeyi, Miasaura Peeblosorum, the countless Wymoning fossil
taxa named after the Churchill family, etc.  These amateurs do what they do
purely because they love fossils and are interested in furthering
knowledge.  Anyone interested in dinosaurs and any other aspects of
paleontology owes these people their gratitude.
        On the other side of the coin are collectors who are mainly
motivated by profit.  Many of them, I'm sure, love fossils as much as
anyone- but for many others, fossils are a means to an end.  It isn't a
matter of what can be learned from the specimens, only how much can be
made.   If the private market for fossils expands, where will the public go
to view fossils?  Museums don't have the financial capacities to compete
against private corporations and collectors, so as the price for fossils
increases museums lose out.  Will private collectors allow the general
public into their homes to view fossils for free?  I somehow doubt it.
        Other countries have dealt w/ the problem by declaring fossils to
be national treasures.  Maybe it is time those of us in America did the
same.   Fossils on PUBLIC land belong to the PUBLIC, plain and simple.

Two More Bits,


Jason J. Head
V.P. graduate student
Dept. of Geological Sciences
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Tx. 75275

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro"- H.S. Thompson