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Re: Rotting Bones

At 03:27 PM 12/14/97 +0000, you wrote:
>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
>Don't worry Roger, I won't take it personal- this is a sensitive subject
for me also, politically and paleontologically. 
 First I would hasten to suggest that adding another layer to the veneer of
federal bureaucracy with a licensing system for potential Charlie Sternbergs
is not going to play well at the local stockmen's meeting out there on the
prairie- or at the state Republican convention.
 Secondly, and this is the point I was trying to make, is that there is
already too much pressure on the public lands out west anyway- especially in
the Lance/ Hell Creek exposures. If you are properly permitted and are
working out there you can be assured of an audience. Through heavy lenses.
 If you have access to private land as do you , have a ball,... I guess. But
on public land, just contact the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology for our
statement on ethics. It's very straightforward.
 To conclude with another personal observation based on my limited
experiences in the field, even if the public lands were wide open for anyone
to collect, there would STILL be fossils rotting from the outcrops. Once the
skulls and teeth and other cool stuff are gone and the last claw is jammed
in a pocket, all that other boring stuff would be left behind, as it is now
by the local perps. Biostratigraphy is essentially dead out there now, but
just wait until those couple hundred Alan Grant wanna-be's from New Jersey
show up in Harding County, South Dakota. And they have never heard of a
cattle gate, let alone a Brunton or notes. And they have a bunch of
cardboard boxes, waiting, empty in the back of their Jeep Cherokees. Do we
really want to go there?
 Dan Varner