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Poling and the FPA



>>How so?  And so what?  The copy of the bill that I have seems like a good
>>compromise for all parties involved.

Mr. Poling,

Are you really of the opinion that the proposed Fossil Protection Act (FPA) 
of 1995 is a good compromise? This suggests that you might be devoid of 
reason, and wallowing in callow enthusiasm for the Black Hills Institute, 
but those of us with even a perfunctory grasp of the facts realize that the 
proposed FPA is fundamentally flawed. 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. There are 
many commercial collectors who are trustworthy individuals, but there are 
still too many who remain irresponsible trophy hunters. The FPA's attempts 
to regulate their activities are wholly inadequate. 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? Do you 
believe that it is proper that fossils occurring on the surface can be 
pocketed by anyone? Do you believe that fossils will not be lost to the 
private market? (Not that your answer to the last question could hold any 
significance because you ask; "And so what?", and in doing so reveal your 

It is a one-sided bill, concocted by, and for the benefit of, commercial 
collectors. It suffers from no great excessof insight into the pertinent 
problems and issues and requires heavy revision before it could ever be 
acceptable to the paleontological community (at least those of us in the 
community with careers or interests that are not based on the sale of 
fossils). Asyou yourself admit; "It could probably use some beefing up in 
how to make sure commercial concerns are complying with the stipulations of 
the law,... ". That is precisely the point, Mr. Poling. In current form the 
FPA will allow commercial collectors to dance through yawning loopholes and 
procure fossils for their own gain and satisfaction. Fossils that occur on 
Federal Lands need to be protected and secured for the public, not for Joe 
Blow and his bank account. Perhaps you have no problem with losing fossils 
to the private market, but I would prefer it if, for example, Jack Horner 
continued to collect, publish, and display dinosaur eggs and babies from 
Federal Land in Montana, rather than having a bus-load of people tramp 
across the nesting horizons, collecting and pocketing every piece of 
eggshell and scrap of embryonic bone that they see. I'd prefer it if the 
next amateur-discovered *Tyrannosaurus* occurring on Federal Land was 
collected and curated by a Museum, held in perpetuity for future 
generations, and not sold off to a private individual or foreign concern, 
never to be seen again by the US public and scientists alike.

I have absolutely nothing against you, Mr. Poling, or against responsible 
commercial collecting, but passage of the FPA of 1995 will not increase, 
but rather restrict the public's access to fossils and turn over a National 
Heritage to the crass forces of commercialism. The FPA is riddled with 
contradictions and will prove detrimental to the paleontological community 
at large, made up mostly of amateur paleontologists, while leaving a 
handful of commercial collectors indebted to those who support the bill. We 
need instead a bill that will ensure that vertebrate fossils collected on 
Federal Lands will remain in the public domain, will not have their 
ownership transferred to any individual or organization, will not be made 
available for purchase by any individual, will not be exported from the 
United States. We should work together to protect vertebrate 
paleontological resources from exploitation, and to safeguard their 
existence as the property of all of the people of the United States.

Des Maxwell
New York College of Osteopathic Medicine