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Re: Regulation of collecting...and NGS

Gary W. Yantis wrote:
> The following message was sent to National
> Geographic Society via their home page. You
> will find the address toward the bottom of this
> letter.
> "I understand that Ted Turner produced a National Geographic
> Explorer that was highly prejudiced against collecting fossils. I want
> to express my outraged that such a slanted program could be produced
> and tarnish the name of such a celebrated and highly thought of
> organization as the National Geographic Society. I would like
> to know if this program represents the general membership and the
> editorial viewpoint of NGS. Please respond and let us know. I am an avid 
> rockhound and fossil collector. I know that we are saving many
> fossils that would otherwise be destroyed by natural erosion.
> Sincerely,
> Gary W. Yantis
> President, Geology Club of San Antonio"
> "Those who give up a little bit of freedom for a bit of safety deserve 
> neither"
> -Ben Franklin

OK, and I have seen and have heard the reports of the activities of
'fossil' and antiquities collectors who take chainsaws to rock faces to
carve off pictographs, and of pot hunters who pull up in bulldozers and
gouge through the earth until they find a pot or two (out of all the
others they crush and shatter) to sell on the black market for huge
profit. Yes, there are dedicated, ethical amateurs (and professionals)
who do their best to search and document sites without wanton
destruction, and who try to preserve the finds for the value they have
in informing us about the origins and practices of our ancestors. But
there a lot more who are just out there to make a buck, without any
understanding at all of what they are destroying in order to put a
dollar or two in their pocket, or a trophy on their den wall.
The Ben Franklin quote is inappropriate, and non-contextual. Those who
would hide behind convenient quotes for the purpose of justifying greed
and ignorance deserve the full anger of the law to discover them and
punish them. 
If the amateur collectors had some kind of oversight organization that
self-monitored and self-regulated, that would be one thing. But there
isn't any. There are just 4-wheels, shovels, saws, wheelbarrows... 
Again, I acknowledge that there are serious, responsible collectors, and
that indeed many specimens would be lost to decay and erosion without
their efforts at collections. But what about the rock faces that I have
seen where nothing remains of the artwork once on them except the marks
of the chainsaw? or of the Anasazi sites that are now nothing more than
random holes in the ground, where the pot hunters scooped out burials
for the pot or necklace that would sell to the foreign tourist for a
high price? How will these sites fare without some measure of
monitoring, of education, of enforced preservation?
The history of mankind, the history of life itself, is not any one
person's personal property. The balance between preserving that history
for the knowledge and understanding that can be derived from its proper
recovery, examination, and research... and for the individual needs to
reap temporary, immediate profit from whatever the common market
desires... and for the interests of those who are indeed well-meaning
and interested in doing what they can to protect and preserve... is a
very sticky one. If there must be error in the degree of regulation to
be taken to accomplish full, protective preservation, then I believe
that an extreme in the direction of protecting the specimen is
acceptable, if not absolutely necessary. The fact is that the evidence
is that leaving regulation to the sensibilities of the individual, and
whatever conception the individual may have of inalienable, private
rights to go wherever and do whatever they wish, leads too many to just
plain looting and profiteering, and by doing so, permanently and
irrevocably destroying the history of the life and evolution of our
planet and our peoples.
What to do? Frankly, I do not trust Mr. Turner, either, to loyally
represent the scientific community. I probably would trust an
organization such as the Geology Club of San Antonio much more. And of
governmental agencies... well.... so, anyway, as always, there are more
questions then answers... and there are trenches and holes and 'private
collections' where there used to be potential discoveries and knowledge
for all of us....

|   g0grant@ix.netcom.com                                 Pennington,
NJ  |
||  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  -- Albert Einstein