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Michael Sternberg: I was just kidding about the licenses,
theropod tags, and point systems. Obviously, you're not a
duck hunter (12 points for a mallard hen, 1 point for a teal).
I'm not either, but I know a lot of hunters and their rules.
It would certainly be a violation of the law (whatever law we
would all agree to) to yank the teeth on a skull, but that is
what's going to happen if you don't have fossil wardens
keeping an eye on the collectors. Allowing toolless surface
collecting on public lands is going to put a hundred times as
many people out there in the badlands as there currently are,
and it only takes one unscrupulous person to destroy a rare
skeleton for its parts. You can educate people as to what is
a fossil, you might even educate people as to which fossils
are valuable and which aren't, but you're never going to
educate criminality out of criminals.
Caitlin Kiernan: Your attitude that privately-owned fossils
should not be the subject of scientific publication is very
unfortunate. You said yourself that key mosasaurs were lost
to science. Now you want to exclude them arbitrarily because
their owners are not proper scientists. That's not helpful.
Lawrence Dunn: I'd be THRILLED if some system existed
whereby fossils went through museums which would clean
them up AND SELL THEM (at least the common ones) to
the public. As a fossil collector (buyer, not finder) I cannot
express adequately how much more valuable that hadrosaur
metatarsal would be if it came in a little plastic box with a
certificate from the Central Museum of Paleontology, signed
by some grad student, describing just EXACTLY what it is
and where it was found (including the GPS coordinates).
It could even have a bar-code individual ID tag and owners
could be encouraged to drop by the museum during National
Fossil Week and have all of their collection "scanned" so
that the local prof knows what's within driving distance.
This also creates another incredible collecting opportunity.
Can you imagine how much a theropod vertebrae signed by
"Grad Student Robert T Bakker" or "Doctoral Candidate
Thomas R Holtz" would be worth AFTER they became famous?