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Fossil Ownership



[ *Man* I was afraid this was going to happen...  If anybody chooses
  to respond, please try to be as polite as possible.  That means
  (among other things) refraining from labelling people (such as Roger
  labels others "socialists" below before he gets around to advising
  us not to label people...).  I fear any more discussion of this topic
  is going to spiral into the gutter.  Please do your part to see to
  it that this doesn't happen.  If it gets any uglier I'll yank the
  thread...  -- MR ]

Hello all,

Well it truely sadens me to read that there are some socialist on this
list that think all fosssils, dinosaurian or otherwise, belong to the
scientific community regardless of where these specimens are found. It
may be very hard for those of you that feel this way to accept the
fact that here in the United States we still have the right to do with
our land as we see fit, both above and below the surface. To point a
boney finger at the land owners for selling this specimen is such an
elitist attitude there can be no defense for it. Would it please you
to see a law passed to make all subsurface oddities property of the
state, regardless of prior rights? Why not go one small step further
and revoke all property rights? Get a grip! I doubt that an such an
attitude opens up private lands to exploration.

To make a statement to the effect that there should never ever be a
profit made from paleontological specimens really goes out on a very
weak limb. How many professional paleontologist work for free? How
many major musuems charge admission fees? How many publishers of
scientific papers and books give them away to anyone that wants them?
Whether we like it or not money is a driving force behind
paleontology, maybe not THE force (i.e. Star Wars :-) ) but a powerful
one anyway.

I think we that study dinosaurs should be really grateful that there
are land owners that allow us dirt grubbers to look for fossils at
all. If these ladowners choose to exercise their right to sell a
specimen who are we to judge?

It's high time some people come down out of their ivory towers and
realized that without these private landowners many treasures of
paleontology would be lost forever. Rather than bitterly label and
alienate these people we should be thankful. What business is it of
yours if these people can make a fortune, or a pitance, as the result
of a fossil or pile of them?

Luckily the ranch owners in South Dakota, where we recover late
Cretaceous fauna, have no interest in gaining profit from the fossils
and donate everything to the University of Illinois. If, however, they
decided to change their attitude I cannot see where we would have a
right to complain. Would it sadden me? Extemely so. Would I shout of
the injustice from the rooftops? Only if I were the ass of the decade.

"No soup for you!"


Roger A. Stephenson