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Re: Baucus Bill

>        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.

   The United States government has the power and responsibility to manage
public resources.  Private oil companies and coal mining companies and gold
mining companies, etc., are allowed access to private lands in return for
some sort of compensation.  Fossils are no different a resource than gold et
al, and indeed I argue that they are one hell of a lot less important.  If
the government is going to stop allowing commercial access to fossils then
to be consistent it has to also end access to ALL resources on public land.

   The fact of the matter is that without the dollars to collect, preserve,
study and display fossils collected on public land, the consequences of
allowing only professional collection of fossils are no different than
private collection.  The fossils in question are more than likely going to
erode away and the few that are collected, unless they're "sexy" specimens,
are probably going to end up in some basement somewhere never to be seen
again (the last I heard was that there are still specimens from the Andrews
Expedition that have not been properly studied, and that the basement of
Brigham Young's football stadium is filled with jacketed fossils).  So the
public loses either way.  Either important information is destroyed due to
careless collection or it's destroyed due to erosion.  Either the fossil is
never seen again by the public and scientific community because it's in a
private collection, or it's never seen again because it's locked up never to
be seen again in a museum basement because there is neither manpower nor
funds to study the specimen.

   I always say that in a free society you err on the side of freedom.  You
can cry that fossils on public land belong to the public, but they will end
up only as the toys of paleontologists and museum curators.  Few actually
end up on display.  The government should be in the business of MANAGING the
access of private citizens to resources on public lands , rather than
restricting it only to a priveleged or educated elite.

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