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

I might be well to compare the funding of museums, digs, etc., with other 
public vs. privately funded resources.

Compare Yosemite National Park to Lake Tahoe, for example. Yosemite remains 
relatively natural and uncommercial. Tahoe is so developed, esp., the south 
lake side that it is hard to consider it a "natural" environment anymore. 
Access to the lake is highly restricted unless one has waterfront property. 
South Lake and the Nevada side are pretty much devoted to the gaming industry.  
As of yet, Yosemite has no Mickey D's, etc.

Unfortunately, there is now a plan afoot to privatize the National Park Service 
with bidding going to lowest contractor.

It was less than a hundred years ago that President Theodore Roosevelt 
spearheaded  federal protection for  remaining forests and other wilderness 

All in all, I would prefer museums and natural wonders to remain nonprofit and 
government-maintained then let go to for profit commercial interests.

Sue Moore
>>> <philidor11@snet.net> 06/08/03 11:42AM >>>
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.)

You observed:
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 
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 

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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