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Re: Detectives on the trail of fossil looters (retry)

philidor11@snet.net writes:

< Dan, isn't it reasonable to think that the answer is to do for-profit 
digs under the guidance, even control of properly trained personnel?  >
(I am not Dan.)  No, because that furthers the idea that fossils are a 
commodity and are "valuable" as collector's items or to resell.  There were a 
of "news" items lately, which thankfully didn't make it to the DML, which 
involved at least one prominent paleontologist who was looking for a fossil to 
send to Korea.  Some of the others are equally eager to send America's fossils 
elsewhere for a price.  The name of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 
bylaw is "Save America's Fossils for Everyone" -- "SAFE."

< Seems remarkable to see stories here about universities cutting 
back on paleontology while people are willing to risk lengthy 
prison terms (for firearms violations if nothing else) in order 
to make material available.  >
You can't have both guns and butter (economics term), and our government has 
currently chosen guns.  There are budget cuts too in all of the states, for 
reasons not related to dinosaur science.  People are risking prison terms in 
order to make money, not to make material available for altruistic reasons.

< The core issue is whether the ultimate disposition of the material 
is more significant than obtaining the material before it's destroyed 
by natural processes.  >
Most of the material out there isn't going anywhere any time soon.  The 
ultimate disposition may be to be parted out and then sent to a gem and mineral 

< Perhaps, with university money drying up, at least to an extent, 
the issue can now be posed that starkly.
Maybe the best place to look for new discoveries isn't in a museum 
drawer.  >
Discoveries have been stolen from there too if there is a perceived monetary 
value connected to the fossil.  Make fossil collecting an SVP approved 
"business," and you will have many more people out there with their backhoes, 
most won't wait for the experts to accompany them.

< I know this has been debated before, but the question seems more 
urgent as fossil collections are being transferred from one institution 
to another because of, presumably, the low priority the material 
has at the sending facility.  This appears to indicate a reduction 
in resources for field work.  How far should such deterioration 
go before a change in policy becomes appropriate?  >
I don't see Canada selling their fossil heritage because the ROM is having 
financial problems.  Italy is keeping its fossils safe, and China is doing its 
best to keep its dinosaur fossils in the country.  The U.S. doesn't need to 
rape its land.

< Are any of my assumptions wrong? >