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FW: Re: A slap on the hand [RANT]

-----Original Message-----
From: Sticht, Aaron 
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2003 3:51 PM
To: 'dinosaur@usc.edu'
Subject: Re: A slap on the hand [RANT]

You know, both sides of this debate have a point, however, there are also
cases where a legitimate academic has followed the rules for what was deemed
appropriate and necessary to collect fossils on private land where once the
significance of the find was revealed and the potential dollar figures which
could be obtained from the sale of the fossil that the landowner went back
on his handshake agreement and used the full extent of the federal
antiquities laws in his favor to financially benefit from the discovery. 
The case in point that I refer to is the sad sad case of Sue the T-Rex.  Not
only did Peter Larson have to pay enormous fines for his collection of what
he believed were legally obtained fossils, but he also had to spend time in
jail as a consequence.  I think fossils belong to everyone, not just a
particular landowner, and if there needs to be lengthy contracts to permit
collection of fossils on public lands just to avoid any sort of legal
entanglements that could result in the fossil going on Christies auction
block and potentially ending up in the hands of a private collector anyway
and not be available to scientific scrutiny.  Just imagine what a tragedy it
would have been had "Sue" ended up in a private billionaires entryway in
some far away land, who benefits from that?  As it is, the Field Museum,
Sony and McDonalds had to fork out a tremendous sum of money to buy the
fossil for science.  I think everyone knows that there will always be
commercial collectors around, there are also many professional "academics"
who collect for science as well as collect specimens which are ultimately
put up for sale.  Allowing the government to become overzealous and go after
legitimate and the occasional illegal fossil collectors will make
paleontology have difficulties in the future.  
How many fossils were lost forever to science back during the early years of
the twentieth century when Cope and Marsh were both racing to name new
species?  They had their crews overlook and in some cases destroy smaller
fossils to obtain the big specimens.  Both of these men were and still are
regarded as academics.  How many of the contributions to the field of
paleontology would be slowed or curtailed by all the red tape that goes
along with these new and scary lawsuits coming about?