Rock, mineral, and fossil collecting is a popular hobby around the world and is not limited to any particular country or region. Instead, close collaborations between professional palaeontologists (those who get paid) and amateur ones (those who don’t) can provide the much-needed manpower while at the same time guaranteeing the scientific standards of collecting data and ensuring access to collections. Believe it or not, some agates sell for a lot of money. When specimens are sold to the highest bidder, museums with inherently tight budgets lose out. Depending on a host of factors including the exact type, weight, and location of the specimens taken, someone may have subjected himself or herself to criminal and civil legal actions. Without private fossil collecting, we would not have been acquainted with the magnificent snake with four legs. Even though commercial fossil collecting will always be fueled by money rather than scientific curiosity, a blanket ban on commercial and private fossil collecting may not be the answer. Perhaps there is. But when fossils are dug for money, and when the race for the biggest and most bad-ass specimens, and thus the most prized ones, is on, science often takes a backseat. My dive partner Bill has no interest in collecting bones, so he doesn’t maintain a permit. In most cases, you are within your legal rights to dig up and sell any fossils you find on your property. It’s a (sad) fact that there will never be enough paleontologists to study all the fossils in the world. The non-profit organization would have the legal right to those surface specimens. Image copyright iStockphoto / Luftklick. By way of example, the owner of land may transfer the mineral and stone interest associated with the land to a limestone quarrying company. The most important factor in assessing the legality of rock, mineral, and fossil collecting activities is the legal ownership or possession of the specimens being collected; the question of the ownership and possession of those specimens is the starting point for further legal analysis. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/.../industry/natural-resource-use/fossil-management The collecting of fossilised remains of animals and plants is often limited by law to prevent overexploitation and vandalism. It is suggested that fossil collectors check with the land manager of any lands they are interested in collecting from as some areas are off limits to collecting of any kind. Part 2: Determining Rock, Mineral, or Fossil Ownership and Possession, Part 3: Additional Conditions, Limitations, and Prohibitions on Rock Collecting, BLM officer detains family 5 hours for picking up rocks, US tourist faces jail in Turkey for collecting beach 'stones', Canadian teen jailed for taking rock from Parthenon, Timothy J. Witt is an attorney with the firm of. This creates a serious issue with regard to reproducibility, which lies at the core of the scientific method. The Necessity of Permission or Consent. The laws governing fossil collection in the United States are pretty straightforward. You need a free permit from the visitor center, you may not use … No fossil collecting of any type is allowed inside the boundaries of national and state parks or wildlife refuges. But even when fossils are excavated and documented properly, fossils tucked away in private collections do little to advance the field of paleontology. Accordingly, when considering whether an activity like rock, mineral, or fossil collecting is âlegal,â the question should be considered and evaluated in both the criminal and civil contexts. Indeed, many highly-sought specimens are available only in locales considered exotic or far-flung. Picture yourself strolling on a long, sandy beach when your spouseâs attention is caught by several beautiful stones gleaming under the shallow water. I know I have. In every state taking the property of another, which would ostensibly extend even to rocks and other specimens, could violate criminal theft or larceny laws and serve as the basis for a lawsuit for civil liability against the person collecting the rocks from the land of another without permission. As you hike with your family in a national park on vacation, your children happen upon several small pieces of petrified wood. Dear colleagues, I would like to ask if someone knows the details regarding the laws related to fossil collecting in France. When considering the legalities of rock, mineral, or fossil collecting, the foremost principle is that a collector cannot legally take rocks, minerals, or fossils without the permission or consent of whoever has a legal right to those rocks, minerals, or fossils. Additionally, when the question of an activityâs âlegalityâ and whether that activity is âlegalâ is raised, it sometimes creates confusion. Ownership of rocks, minerals, and fossils entails complete control of those specimens in the most extensive sense, still subject to applicable laws, however. Signs like this on private property indicate that the property owner does NOT want people collecting agates on their land. Importantly, however, each area has a specific legal system applicable to that area; there is no single, uniform body of laws related to specimen collecting that applies across the globe.2 Accordingly, whether particular collecting activities are legal in one area does not mean that those same activities are legal in other areas. The specimen had been found in the Crato Formation in Brazil, an area that has yielded spectacularly well-preserved fossils. The legalities of rock, mineral, and fossil collecting are multi-faceted and fact-specific. In Italy collecting fossils on the field, and trading or selling italian specimen is forbidden. Picking up small fossils as a child seems harmless enough, but what when you stub your toe on something rare and spectacular? Moreover, whereas scientific collections in natural history museums and other research institutes are (in theory, at least) available for study to everyone, access to private collections is very much restricted as private collectors are in no way obliged to let scientists study their specimens. The purpose of this article is to explain many of the legal principles related to rock, mineral, and fossil collecting so as to enable specimen collectors to better evaluate the legality of their activities. To palaeontologists, the fossils in themselves are valuable, but much of the added value that is needed to put a fossil in its proper evolutionary framework comes from the context in which the fossil was found. Generally, on BLM and Forest Service lands (which covers 2/3 of Idaho) you are allowed to collect modest quantities of invertebrate fossils (corals, leaf plates, snails, mollusks, etc.) Criminal cases are entirely about the âguiltâ or âinnocenceâ of a defendant. The fossilized remains of plants and animals, or traces of their activities, are protected under the Government of Alberta's Historical Resources Act. Without being trite, determining whether specimen collecting is legal or illegal in any given situation is a veritable âwho-what-where-when-why-howâ exercise. Nonetheless, the question of legality underscores the legal framework in which such simple activities take place. Yes, some argue, the private status of the specimen is less than ideal, but hey, would we rather let something trivial as the law get in the way of great science? Max may also have civil liability to Guy for the same conduct under a civil theory of conversion and negligence. These specimens cannot be sold for profit. As a result, there are few easy answers, and many answers will be nuanced answers that are heavily-reliant on the particulars of individual instances of collecting. First of all, it’s the law… To say that an activity is âlegalâ could mean either 1) that it is not a criminal offense; or 2) that it would create no civil liability. In these times of opposing views, is there a middle ground? And that’s what it should be all about. To some, the answer is no. One of those issues cuts straight to the heart of the activity: is it legal? Germany very recently adopted the new Cultural Property Protection Act that severely restricts the collecting of and trade in fossils. Gem cutters sometimes pay hundreds of dollars per pound for agate that is especially colorful or marked with interesting designs. You and some friends are having a great day rock-climbing in a nearby state park when your activities reveal several interesting crystalline minerals. Even in cases where no specific person or organization has ownership of rocks, minerals, or fossils or the property on which rocks, minerals, or fossils are located, federal, state, or local governments have what constitutes default ownership or possession of those specimens or that property.6 In the majority of instances, the ownership of particular specimens located on the surface follows the ownership of the land upon which those specimens are located so that the person who owns the land also owns those surface specimens.7 In certain situations, however, this default rule is not applicable due to legal relationships in which the right of possession for those surface specimens is transferred to another person or organization. Planning. Would someone be doing something illegal in keeping one of the found specimens? As is often the case, legal principles do not always match up with practical circumstances, and someone who does something illegal may not always be caught, let alone prosecuted or sued. Both ownership and rights of possession are relevant to rock, mineral, or fossil collecting as crucial for determining what rules are applicable and what permissions are needed for rock, mineral, or fossil collecting. No permit is needed for plant fossils, such as leaves, stems, and cones, or common invertebrate fossils, such as ammonites and trilobites. Fossil collecting is permitted on private land with the owner's approval. Even within the United States, however, the legality of collecting involves state and local laws that could result in dramatically different outcomes despite otherwise nearly identical circumstances.3. It is illegal to sell any fossil found in Alberta without a disposition certificate. Quite possibly. The state of Indiana has started to crack down on collecting at the road cuts in Indiana. An example of that can be seen in the Netherlands, where the Society of Pleistocene Mammals has fostered relationships between professional and amateur palaeontologists for decades. Petrified wood can be collected up to 25 pounds per day, plus 1 … Nonetheless, this framework is the one in which questions of the legality of collecting even small, loose stones would be answered if such legal questions are raised. Image copyright iStockphoto / WojciechMT. In a sense then, committing a crime is a public offense. In a civil context, whether an activity is âlegalâ means that someone cannot be sued by another person, the liability for which is typically a judgment for monetary damages or injunctive relief, for engaging in that activity. A major concern with the commercial mining of fossils is the loss, or even complete lack, of context data. Simply put, specimen collectors may find themselves in situations where they could engage in illegal conduct seemingly without fear of discovery or negative repercussions. for personal use. Exchanges must follow de-accession procedures in the Museum Handbook, Part II, chapter 6." Therefore, unless special permission was obtained from the government, all Mongolian fossil specimens brought into the United States since 1924, were smuggled out of Mongolia. Federal laws, dating back to 1942, require special authorization for digging and say fossils are national property and must be kept in Brazil. Published codes of ethics for rock collecting and rockhounding are intended to serve as guidelines for making moral and ethical choices associated with the hobby; however, ultimately, adherence to the legal realities of collecting oftentimes becomes a matter of oneâs personal character. Contrary to a common perception, all rocks, minerals, and fossils are treated as being owned or possessed by some person or entity in the American legal system; there are no specimens that are wholly âunownedâ as a legal concept. Max may be guilty of committing the criminal offense of theft for which he may be given a fine or, more likely, imprisoned. When considering the legalities of rock, mineral, or fossil collecting, the foremost principle is that a collector cannot legally take rocks, minerals, or fossils without the permission or consent of whoever has a legal right to those rocks, mineral, or fossils. This was started in part in April and has only ramped up. If you find a fossil, the location is as important as the fossil itself. The Mongolian law is basic and vague, but it is enough to prevent any fossils from legally leaving the country. How did this specimen end up in Germany, and if it had been exported illegally, should scientists become involved in such practices? Many of the sites are closed to collecting or buried under shopping centers, highways, or housing developments. Surface collecting is allowed but not digging or excavation. Fossils to be de-accessioned in an exchange must fall outside the park's scope of collection statement. In keeping these specimens, would the individuals have done something wrong? Had she been alive today, some of her work would be illegal. While some people might tell you there’s no enforcement, or that no one bothers; it’s still a good idea to apply for and receive your Florida Fossil Permit. It’s hard to hate on Mary Anning, one of the first fossil collectors. Thus, sometimes an activity that is a criminal offense can also create civil liability. There may be various reasons for this: They want to avoid potential liability, they simply don't want people on their land, they want the agates for their own personal use, or the agates are valuable. Even though there are serious issues with private fossil collecting, it can provide the scientific community with fossil specimens that would never have excavated otherwise. Most importantly, it has resulted in some pretty great palaeontology. From: "Patricia Kane-Vanni"