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In my previous rantings I was less than clear on a few points, which I
hope to resolve now.
I feel landowners shouldn't have to give up the rights to fossil
material discovered on their land, but rather encouraged and educated
to manage any important specimenns carefully. If a ranch owner needs
to sell a few fragments and disarticulated bones to help make ends
meet we as paleontologists (both pro & am) should try to understand.
Our job, as representatives of this science, is to convince those
people to let a professional have a look at anything either
articulated or unusual. If there is something exceptional about the
specimen the pro would have the initial influence in the landowners
ultimate decision. A clever paleontologists might just create a niche
in an unexplored area as a fossil resources management consultant.
Either individually, or as a cartel, museums could retain a
professional, or crew of same, to search out and contact landowners
with potential fossil bearing lands. Long term agreemnets might even
be reached where the landowner donates all his specimens to the
museum(s) where they are prepped, documented, studied, and
catalouged. After careful evaluation unimportant specimens could be
mounted and sold at the museum itself with all the proper data
confirmed. If the rancher and the museum split the profit all parties
gain in that the best specimens are held in trust, the rancher gains
access to a broader market, and buyers get exactly what they pay for.
If someone finds another Sue, under the arangement described above, a
general trust fund could be set aside from all sales, with a cap
limit. Or the museums might lobby the government for a tax deferal as
part of the compensation package. If the terms are fair the system
To outcompete the private sector that already exist the cartel could
use their combined marketing potiental, advertise the scientific
aspects, and portray the specimens as only they can.
More professional paleontologists would be needed, as would
preparators, field workers, illustrators, and on and on. We could
actually make our science a selfsustaining and publiclly accepted
endevour, with room for growth well into the future.
Of course this all means we accept the rights of landowners, realize
there is nothing wrong with the sale of common fossils, and work
toward a system that everyone can live with.
Roger A. Stephenson