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 one’s personal character. If a new species is described based on a number of fossil specimens, it is common practice to make sure that these specimens are deposited in a collection where they can be studied by other scientists. Pertinent laws at the federal level are mostly contained within ARPA (Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979) and the companion set of regulations, 43CFR7. This looks like one of the world's most innocent activities, but if the rocks are removed from certain types of property it could be a violation of regulation, law, or personal property rights. Closed sites will stay on the list, as they are sometimes reopened, and sometimes the same rocks and fossils will turn up 100 yards or 100 miles down the road. Private ownership of fossils is often viewed as controversial, and many countries have laws in place that limit the collecting of specimens by private individuals. By way of example, the owner of land may transfer the mineral and stone interest associated with the land to a limestone quarrying company. 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. During this year’s annual meeting of the European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists in Haarlem, the Netherlands, in early July, palaeontologists debated the ethics of private fossil collecting, and whether or not scientists should include specimens in private collections in their scientific studies. These specimens cannot be sold for profit. Fossil collecting is the collection of fossils for scientific study, hobby, or profit. It’s a (sad) fact that there will never be enough paleontologists to study all the fossils in the world. Rock, mineral, and fossil collectors may also wrestle with the distinction between legal and practical realities when considering collecting activities. Fossils to be de-accessioned in an exchange must fall outside the park's scope of collection statement. Last year, the fossil of a snake with four legs made headlines worldwide, but not only because it was the first time the world saw a four-legged snake. 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. The three people charged with stealing rocks from a levee in Arkansas are yet another example. The sites were often on private property and caused problems for some landowners. Other times, an activity that is a criminal offense will create no civil liability. Furthermore, as the most sought-after fossil specimens can yield a significant profit, large amounts of fossil-bearing sediments are destroyed in search of particularly well-preserved or rare fossil specimens. International Laws pertaining to the Collection, Import, Export and Sale of Fossil Material. To some, the answer is no. These questions evoke fairly common and seemingly innocuous scenarios. Without being trite, determining whether specimen collecting is legal or illegal in any given situation is a veritable “who-what-where-when-why-how” exercise. The non-profit organization would have the legal right to those surface specimens. 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.) What are the fossil collecting laws of France? As you hike with your family in a national park on vacation, your children happen upon several small pieces of petrified wood. Likewise, when specimens are not located on the surface of land or are comprised of specific, recognized minerals or stone, the owner or possessor of a legal interest, oftentimes referred to as a mineral or stone interest, owns those specimens. This was started in part in April and has only ramped up. Collecting of human artifacts on state lands is illegal. These regs allowed commercial collecting of vertebrate and invertebrate fossils with purchased permit - would have shut out hobbyist collecting and made scientific collecting extremely difficult. They cut these into cabochons for use in jewelry or for gemstone collectors. 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. Follow-Ups: . No fossil collecting of any type is allowed inside the boundaries of national and state parks or wildlife refuges. What you will be facing in part is loss of All minerals, fossils and loss of your car along with arrest for taking state property. Learn more about paleontology and collecting on U.S. Forest Service lands. 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. In a civil context, whether an activity is “legal” 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. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/.../industry/natural-resource-use/fossil-management This is vital to science, since observations by other palaeontologists can reveal details that may have been missed before. Excellent fossil occurrences are common in limestone quarries such as the Martin-Marietta Quarry in Berkeley County near Cross, S.C. 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. 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. This information ranges from the exact geological layer it was found in, whether it was found facing up or down, and which other fossils were found, to who found it and when. Civil cases are not really about the “guilt” or “innocence” of a defendant. Additionally, when the question of an activity’s “legality” and whether that activity is “legal” is raised, it sometimes creates confusion. These regulations were favorable to the commercial paleontological community, they opposed it because of probable harm to the amateur and scientific paleo collecting. Mongolia classifies all fossils as cultural items. Ownership of rocks, minerals, and fossils entails complete control of those specimens in the most extensive sense, still subject to applicable laws, however. Professionals and amateurs alike collect fossils for their scientific value. 34 Rock collectors should also note that taking or removing rocks that have been specifically claimed or deemed the property of the federal government … The US federal land laws forbid any collection of vertebrate fossils without an institutional permit, but allow hobby collection of common invertebrate and plant fossils on most federal land , and even commercial collection of petrified wood. Fossil collecting, as practiced by amateurs, is the predecessor of modern paleontology and many still collect fossils and study fossils as amateurs. This article is directed toward individual rock, mineral, and fossil collecting hobbyists. Collecting of human artifacts on state lands is illegal. Regardless of whether specimen collecting is referred to as rock hunting, rockhounding, or amateur geology, the legal issues associated with collecting remain the same. 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. Image copyright iStockphoto / emholk. A major concern with the commercial mining of fossils is the loss, or even complete lack, of context data. Petrified wood can be collected up to 25 pounds per day, plus 1 … Colloquially, when people ask whether something is “legal” or “illegal,” in most cases, they are really asking “can I do it without getting into trouble?” It’s certainly a fair question, but it’s a question with two possible levels of meaning. In that situation, the company generally has the right of possession to the real estate, although the person still retains ownership of the real estate. In keeping these specimens, would the individuals have done something wrong? Since Brazil had made the export of fossils illegal in 1942, the discovery sparked a legal investigation. 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. Had she been alive today, some of her work would be illegal. Criminal activity results from the violation of criminal laws (e.g., speeding prohibitions), which are generally pursued by government law enforcement agencies. The most severe consquence will likely be a warning, but, one never knows what can happen. Image copyright iStockphoto / WojciechMT. My dive partner Bill has no interest in collecting bones, so he doesn’t maintain a permit. Fossils can be collected in Alberta on Crown Land and on private land with the permission of the landowner. These quarries supply material used in cement and concrete mixes, agricultural lime and fertilizer filler, crushed stone aggregate, and road building applications. Simply put, specimen collectors may find themselves in situations where they could engage in illegal conduct seemingly without fear of discovery or negative repercussions. Would you put it above the fireplace to be admired for eternity, or would you try to sell it for a good price? For instance, the United States’ Bureau of Land Management prohibits any commercial collection from public lands, but does allow collecting for personal use. Is it yours to keep? Accordingly, the legal principles explained in this article are applicable primarily to persons, not companies or other legal entities. 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. While criminal and civil laws are oftentimes also applied to companies and other legal entities, in most instances, those organizations would likely have people engaging in collecting on their behalf for commercial purposes, which is, itself, relevant to the legality of certain rock, mineral, or fossil collecting activities. Mary Anning was one of the first fossil collectors and made important discoveries, including ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Increasing the communication between these two groups, that often have been opposite of one another, has resulted in mutual trust, inspired collaborations and training sessions, and increased the sharing of palaeontological knowledge. Accordingly, when considering whether an activity like rock, mineral, or fossil collecting is “legal,” the question should be considered and evaluated in both the criminal and civil contexts. The state of Indiana has started to crack down on collecting at the road cuts in Indiana. Very few exceptions: universities, museums and a private old quarry at Bolca (very famous locality for fish fossils) Mineral and/or Locality . Gem cutters sometimes pay hundreds of dollars per pound for agate that is especially colorful or marked with interesting designs. I am letting any of you know NOT to stop and collect at the road cuts. This creates a serious issue with regard to reproducibility, which lies at the core of the scientific method. 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