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Re: Nate Murphy 4

This series of articles has been very well written. I was especially taken with 
the comments by Dave Trexler, where he said that it was not ivory-tower 
academics looking down on Murphy, but in fact Murphy's own deception that led 
to his downfall. This was an important point to make given the usual 
anti-intellectual backlash after accusations of this kind.

I will say that a few times I was slightly jarred by suggestion that fossils 
retrieved from state or federal lands somehow belonged to the government. 
Fossils on public lands belong to the American people; either the people of 
Montana (state land) or the country as a whole (BLM etc). In a state such as 
Montana, where in some areas anti-government sentiment runs high (especially 
those areas where many of these fossils are found), it is not good to imply 
that the government took fossils away from Murphy et al, and that state-owned 
museums are in some way acting like federal agents (believe me, this perception 
is widely held in some areas). The public-owned fossils were taken away from 
private individuals who took them from public lands, and kept them as their 
own, and were placed into the public trust (Museum of the Rockies) where 
members of the public can come and see them, given some notice. Some of these 
same fossils (once properly curated) were then
 sent back out to local museums in the towns closest to where they were 
extracted, so that these communities can have good fossils on display, and 
bring in some more visitors. These fossils are technically on loan from the 
Museum of the Rockies, but that is really an unfortunate term: the MOR merely 
holds them in trust for the American people, and that includes residents of 
Malta: the people own the fossils not the MOR. This might seem like stating the 
obvious, but it is a contentious point in many of these communities, and 
something we explain over and over (which is fair enough).

On another note, I should add that there is no excuse at all for "accidentally" 
straying on to public lands in Montana. From reading the article, you might 
think that it is a confusing mess as to whether prospected land is owned by 
farmers or is public land leased for grazing (etc). For the state of Montana, 
detailed land ownership maps have been available free online for a few years 
now, and they are updated regularly. Indeed, topo maps, drainage, geology quads 
are all there.. it's a superb resource:


Given the easy and free availability of this data, there is no excuse 
whatsoever for conducting an excavation on public lands 'accidentally'. As the 
article points out, this is willful ignorance perpetrated in order to be able 
to provide a weak excuse if caught stealing. I appreciate that other states do 
not have such detailed information available (and I really wish they did), but 
in Montana there is no excuse.


Denver Fowler

----- Original Message ----
From: "mkirkaldy@aol.com" <mkirkaldy@aol.com>
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Sent: Wednesday, 6 May, 2009 9:50:16
Subject: Re: Nate Murphy 4

Here is a 2003 Nate Murphy bio by the same reporter who is doing the current 
series.  (I believe the accompanying photo is actually of Tim Quarles.)  A lot 
of debris to dig through.

Murphy's family digs paleonto


-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Chure <danchure@easilink.com>
To: VRTPALEO@usc.edu; DML <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Wed, 6 May 2009 7:45 am
Subject: Nate Murphy 4

The final installment of the Nate Murphy expose can be read at: