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Re: Detectives on the trail of fossil looters (retry)
< An expert collector receives approval and excavates appropriately
using public/private funds, with all material going to a museum
or other public venue. >
"Not Dan" again, but how is the above different from the current status?
< 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. >
This is like setting up a drug cartel.
< 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. >
Which is what is happening today, because fossils are seen as bringing in big
money in the marketplace (but only the biggest, longest, oldest, etc.).
< No one excavates the material, and a certain amount disappears
because of natural processes. >
A lot of the material can wait until next year or the year after or 10 years
from now without much harm.
< 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.) >
None. This isn't something that has to be done right away, and certainly we
don't have to sell the rights to any fossils just because some people want to
dig and make some quick money.
< Given the prices fossils can command, how much more furthering
does this concept need? >
Ivory used to command high prices, and the elephants didn't profit much from
< 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.>
It is better to make stronger laws and enforce them than to deal with
practicality when we are talking about something that is not renewable.
< 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. >
Making a deal with the devil has a lot of drawbacks when it comes to
< 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.>
See past SVP president Richard Stucky's statement about H.R. 2974 at:
< 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 don't follow your reasoning on this and will defer to the Real Dan's
< 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
I don't think it solves the problem by creating an industry that will churn
or backhoe the products right onto eBay.
< 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? >
I am not at all arguing that, as once again it is making a pact with the
devil. Egypt, in the past two centuries, saw a significant portion of its
antiquities looted and sold around the world. It now wants those treasures
they should be. The U.S. should not be in the business of licensing people
to steal, just because they will do it anyway.