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 Post subject: new paleontological regulations for national forest lands
PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:36 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:48 am
Posts: 4315
Location: Broomfield, Colorado ... sec-291-13

The regulations received quite a bit of adverse comment from paleontologists; however it seems like the Department of Agriculture was hamstrung by an Act of Congress.

One particular problem is the definition of "research" as a commercial activity requiring a permit. The regulations do not preclude "casual" collection by amatuers (or by professionals, for that matter) but the definition of "casual" includes "unplanned". In other words, if you are are an amatuer paleontologist, and you happen to stumble across a fossil in the field, you can collect it (subject to a bunch of other restrictions, of course) but if you deliberately go to a site to look for fossils you are engaged in "research" and need a permit.

The regulations allow the permiting officer to grant permits to people who are not professional paleontologists, but it remains to be seen how that is administered.

It's also required that all fossils collected under a permit remain the property of the Federal government and be deposited in a repository institution. If my own research had been done on Federal land it would have been very difficult under these rules; it involved collecting slabs with hundreds of fossils on them, identifying them down to the generic level, and comparing community makeup at different locations. The requirement to identify and curate each individual fossil would have made this impossible.

The regulations seem to be formulated by people whose idea of paleontology was formed by Jurassic Park: fossils are very rare and very valauble and are always dug up from underground by large field crews. Several commenters complained that the rules consider reconnaissance a permit-required activity; the DoA said "Yes it is" and left it at that.

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