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Re: Detectives on the trail of fossil looters (retry)
The alternatives I was looking at were:
An expert collector receives approval and excavates appropriately
using public/private funds, with all material going to a museum
or other public venue.
Private collectors who will sell finds are licensed to excavate,
but only with the guidance/approval of a government-approved
expert, who prepares all documentation. The material found will
be sold, and the high prices assure there's money to pay for
the expert's services.
The excavation is undertaken illegally, and the excavators have
a premium on working quickly to finish work as quickly as possible.
The materials are sold where the highest profit is available,
which means much of the material is more or less lost.
No one excavates the material, and a certain amount disappears
because of natural processes.
If the first, best alternative is impossible because of lack
of money or time, which of the other 3 would you prefer, Mary?
(I know you're not Dan, but I was replying to his post. Sorry.)
No [disagreeing with #2 above], because that furthers the idea
that fossils are a
commodity and are "valuable" as collector's items or to resell.
Given the prices fossils can command, how much more furthering
does this concept need?
You also noted:
You can't have both guns and butter (economics term), and our
currently chosen guns. There are budget cuts too in all of the
reasons not related to dinosaur science. People are risking
prison terms in
order to make money, not to make material available for altruistic
Agreed, on both points. The fact that public money for dinosaur
science has been lessened will have an impact. Might be necessary
to put some ideals into abeyance to deal with the practical situation.
If people are in fact gathering material at the risk of prison
terms, that's a pretty good indication there are resources which
might be harnessed for greater public benefit in this situation.
Finally, you asserted:
Make fossil collecting an SVP approved
"business," and you will have many more people out there with
their backhoes, and
most won't wait for the experts to accompany them.
If the SVP's opinion were the only restraint, not a backyard
in the country would be safe. It's government approval backed
by criminal penalties that puts restraints on fossil gathering.
This is a public policy issue, advised but not controlled by
professional paleontological organizations.
I'm concerned that if this issue is presented to government and
the public as a potentially large, profitable industry which
can produce valuable information for science, but which is crippled
by excessive regulation and the arrogance and exclusivity of
experts, then we could easily end up with a less protective law
than would be possible otherwise.
I know that right now there are references to exacting science
in the debate. But given a few more sales of fossils for huge
amounts of money and the formation of companies with serious
capital, I think you could see controls loosened to an excruciating
And if China, given all the looting going on, is a benign example
for you, then you'd seem to be arguing that extensive looting
is preferable to scientific excavation for private profit. Are
you sure you want to argue that?
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