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Rotting Bones

Hello all,

 Dan Varner writes regarding the subject of bone search on public land,
>Yes, yes. But if you go to where there are actually vertebrate fossil
exposures on those half billion acres you will find semi-filled-in holes
full of bits of plaster, burlap, aluminum foil(especially if you are in
South Dakota), uncollected fossil bone(but never skulls), and numerous Merit
cigarette butts. You're not kidding me. Been there.<

Since you've been there you also know there are literally tons of bones
rotting away to nothing. We all know it's better to allow this than to
allow any other than scientists collect vert. fossils.  Come on folks the
fact that someone is out there ripping bones from the ground tells us
something more than the obvious. Fossils have a value, just ask the buyers
of Sue. Until there is a reasonable policy on allowing the non-scientific
community access to those fossils there will be empty holes and Merit
butts. Why? 'Cause there are thousands of fossils and thousands of people
dying to own one. I've yet to hear a reasonable position that prohibits the
collection of vert. fossils by nonprofessionals. The way things are now
creates a more attractive black market than would otherwise exist with a
properly administrated liscensing system.

I've advocated a liscensing system for years, with mixed revues. One more
point in favor of such a system is the fact that ethical, liscenced,
commercial collectors could, and would, do some of the police work
themselves. It would be in the best interest of their bottom line to keep
an eye on the area they were working and report slash and burn collecting.
The monies from  liscensing fees could actually create paid positions for
paleontologist to work apart from museums and similar institutions.
Wouldn't it better to have some control over the collecting proccess, or
leave things as they are now?

Until those that are now legally allowed to collect on public lands open
their minds and change their attitudes more bones will rot to dust and more
bones will be rippped from the earth in less than ethical proceedures.
Sure, those that are ripoff artist should have their asses thrown in the
jailhouse, but those capable of  doing good work should be allowed to
rescue some of those fossils professionals cannot extract. There is not
enough time or researchers out there to recover all the bones rotting away,
and to defend the complete loss of any fossil on grounds of some ethical
point of order about the sale of fossils is silly at best. Unless the fears
and prejudices can be overcome the problem will only grow, and the
restrictive position that only science has a right to the fossils is short
sighted. If these fossils are on public land by what means do you deny the
public right to access to them? If this is the way it's gonna be, let us
rewrite the entire public land use policy so that it is the exclusive
property of the scientific community. No more coal or oil, or any other
material with a cash value can be extracted by any other than a scientist
in that particular field of study. That won't work, and the present policy
toward collecting won't, and doesn't, work either.

Don't take it personal Dan, this is a sensitive subject with me, for both
political and paleontological reasons.

Roger A. Stephenson
Hell Creek Homey