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I would say that there are many reputable fossil collection operations out
there that do a good job. unfortunately, there are also many who rape the
landscape for the very valuable fossils. those are the companies that
the legislation is designed to keep out. unfortunately, trading fossils
and selling them causes market economics to make the sitation where the
most scientifically precious fossils are also the most subject to
being collected irresponsibly by unscrupulous collectors (viz. the
chinese dino eggs, ammonites in alberta, other dino fossils at accessible
localities, some footprint sites, etc. etc.)
i am sure that there is a middle ground here if we can only see the way
to find it. one obvious solution would be to licence the reputable
collecting operations to allow them a status similar to museum/academic
crews. of course licencing raises all sorts of potential for abuse too.
education for the average person (amateurs, rock hounds, mineral society
members) would go a long way to reducing their abuses (that 99% stem
from enthusiasm for the past and ignorance of the best collection methods
not any desire to reap commercial rewards). their abuses (poor word
that) are generally insignificant compared to those by the greedy fossil
collectors (not all of them, the ones that rape and pillage and thereby
destroy the sites for any scientific usages).
i personally do not believe that allowing more fossil collecting on public
lands solves the problem. any amateur "caught" collecting illegally on
public land is not likely to get any significant find. it is political
suicide to piss off the general public that way. hence, my solution:
allow the public to do surface collections only - no digging.
for excavation, permits/licencing would be required.
let museums/academics decide whether the commercial operations get to
be licenced. that would ensure that commercial operations would
be more likely to be reputable.
my 2c worth...
Bonnie Blackwell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dept of Geology, (718) 997-3332
Queens College, City University of New York, fax: 997-3349
Flushing, NY 11367-1597