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Summary of Hearings on Fossils on Public Lands (5-16-2007)

  • April 17, 2007: House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands hearing on "H.R. 554, H.R. 986, H.R. 1100, and H.R. 1285"

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands hearing on "H.R. 554, H.R. 986, H.R. 1100, and H.R. 1285"
April 17, 2007

In a hearing held April 17, 2007, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing to consider the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act and three other measures. Introduced by Representative James McGovern (D-MA), the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (H.R. 554) provides for the protection of paleontological resources on federal lands by providing stiff penalties for crimes involving the theft and vandalism of Fossils of National Significance (FONS). In his opening statement, Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) noted his concern about the "unintended consequences" of H.R. 554. However, Congressman McGovern assured the committee that the bill "does not place any new restrictions on amateur collectors" and only pertains to public lands.

Recalling the "Last Chance" Dinosaur Quarry in Colorado, discovered by a volunteer enthusiast in 2004 and regarded as one of the most important dinosaur quarries in Colorado, the US Forest Service embraced the bill, albeit with minor revisions. Commenting that fossils provide "remarkable evidence of the Earth's history," Mr. Norbury, Assistant Deputy Chief of the US Forest Service, noted that "the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework that encourages the integration of public and private resources, skills, and enthusiasm" would play an enormous role in "the excavation and preservation of these amazing remains."

Two other, non-governmental witnesses, Peter Larson and Ted Vlamis, disagreed on the value of H.R. 554. Peter Larson, President of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, describes himself as a "degreed geologist, experienced vertebrate paleontologist and current member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the Paleontological Society, and the Mid-American Paleontological Society." Larson provided an explanation of why he opposes the bill in his written testimony. Ted Vlamis, who described himself as an amateur paleontologist and an active member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology provided testimony right after Larson. Vlamis explained why he supported the bill and also stated in his written testimony that "The PRPA [H.R. 554] has been endorsed by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, an organization of more than 2000 professional and amateur paleontologists, and by the American Association of Museums, which counts among its membership 11,500 individual museum professionals and volunteers, 3100 institutions, and 1700 corporate members."

To see the full testimony, go to the House Natural Resources Committee web site.

-EG

Sources: Hearing testimony.

Contributed by Erin Gleeson, 2007 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern and Paul Schramm, 2007 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on May 16, 2007.


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