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Hello Folks:

I'm new to the forum and as of today have not posted. Today I headed to Herkimer County in upstate NY to one of the sites that are found on a popular nationwide list. I encountered Posted signs after Posted sign only to be greeted by a few No Trespassing signs. Most of my attempts to ask for permission were greeted by an outright "NO!!". I finally had the chance to talk to two landowners who were more than willing to tell me why this seems to be the norm. It seems "fossil collectors" don't respect their land, leave garbage, damage rock formations and in one case changed the flow of a Creek causing it to food his back pasture. At one of these sites that I was fortunate to get permission I saw what these landowners were talking about. At this one sight I found fast food bags and cartons , soda cans, beer cans and two used pampers. Some folks we may be making it harder and harder for us to pursue our hobby and if we don't police ourselves that could happen sooner than anyone could imagine. One of these landowners  was sued because someone without permission fell of a rock formation and broke and arm. I myself cleaned up the site I was able to use and let the landowner know. My reward was unlimited access. For what it's worth I'm venting and expressing my frustrations which I hope will be considered the next time any of us go out. 

Stay well Stay happy and Stay safe

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I think I know the site you visited and visited it a number of times before the No Trespassing signs went up. I do wish to point out the site was visited by a large number of intruders on ATVs, horseback, and on foot, a popular hangout spot for local teenagers and young adults. . Whenever I went I was the only fossil collector there and I didn't leave any trash, but I would often encounter numerous others acting with profound disrespect. Kudos to you for getting permission from an owner to collect there and cleaning up the site.

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Discussions of responsible collecting, of which good stewardship is a large part, aren't new to the forum. Hopefully any discussion contained in this thread remains civil. I'd like to touch on a few points regarding private property permissions.


First, I get the feeling of that most people on this forum practice good stewardship of the land and respect people's property. There are always some bad apples in any group that foul things up. A lot of people in the US can correlate this problem in amateur paleontology to something they might be more familiar with; disappearing hunting access to private lands across the States. Although North Dakota property owners have always been slower to restrict access to their property than most of the midwest, this has become an increasing problem here recently as well and is hardly new. Most hunters respect private property but it only takes a little to start the slide towards no access.


I've been blessed to have a very high permission rate, perhaps in part because I am a North Dakota native and people are less wary of me then. I can't imagine the difficulty in populated areas such as New York. So what can you do? Here are some things to keep in mind that might help. Obviously some things may vary and some may seem obvious but it doesn't hurt to lay them out.


First of all, I want to clarify that posted land isn't always a no permission given. Many landowners are willing to let people on their property when posted, it depends on a variety of factors including but not limited to:


Who: Many landowners want to know who is on their property so they post, simple as that. Sometimes it is a simple call, leave my name and what my car looks like, or whatever else they need and I'm good to go. I once had a landowner ask for local (to her) character references. Turns out they worked with the wife of my undergraduate advisor so that wasn't too difficult luckily.


When: Sometimes properties are better to visit at certain times than others. I get turned down a lot more during the hunting seasons than other times because they or others they have given permission to will be hunting the property. Some landowners don't like people in the pasture when cattle are grazing. I have had landowners grant me access at one point only to say no at another because they had since put cattle in the pasture. Be flexible and work with them.


What: Landowners might not know what collecting fossils entails. Be honest and communicate. Once again, be flexible. Landowners might not mind digging while it is a problem for others. Be specific about what you want to do, i.e surface collecting, digging (minimal or extensive), driving in, etc. Some landowners only think of fossils as digging and will then say no. Explaining that there can be no digging can help.


You might be noticing a pattern of communication and flexibility here.



Sometimes a waiver of liability is necessary. I was on a beautiful property earlier this year where the landowners used to let whoever wanted to hike on their property. Then some guy pushed his wife off a cliff there. It's completely understandable that waivers would be wanted after such an event.


Make it a conversation:

Many (but of course not all) landowners are interested in knowing what is on their property even if they're not interested in collecting. Talk it over with them about what can be found. I often send pictures to landowners after sampling. This helps keep good relations as well. Every once in a while I send papers to landowners who are very interested.


Respect, respect, respect!:

Respect the land, don't litter, if they say you can only walk in then just walk, etc. I don't want to lecture people on such things since I'm sure this is second nature for many forum members but I'll put it here for completion. As OP did, cleaning trash is a good step as well.


Respect the landowner's choice as well. Many will say no and that is fine. Don't be afraid to respectfully inquire why the answer is no though, you might find it is a factor listed above.


Foster a relationship:

A good relationship with a landowner can go a long way. I've touched on this throughout, especially with the last two points, but it is important.



Hopefully this isn't too much of a tangent. To sum things up, most landowners as well as property users are not the unreasonable people we sometimes see each other as. There's often good reason a landowner acts the way he does. Be understanding of that and respectful to them and their land as well. It may go a long way.




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Well said, Thomas.  :dinothumb:

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4 hours ago, Judgement said:

I myself cleaned up the site I was able to use and let the landowner know. My reward was unlimited access.

You did it good, you did it right, you did it perfect - you were granted!! That´s one of the ways to go. And you maybe made a new friend and changed maybe a mind a little bit!!

Good work, keep it going!!!!

Franz Bernhard

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Hi All:

Thanks for your comments and support as I said it was a little of a venting of my frustrations. And i've made some friends. I'll also say that I'd have no trouble calling police if I saw serious illegal activity.

It's still very frustrating to drive 2-3 hrs and be disappointed but better planning on my part would probably make a difference. There are Two power companies on the West Canada Creek in Herkimer County NY one posted a sign including "No disturbing the ground"which could legally mean I couldn't dig for worms! The other allowed access after signing a very simple and basic waiver. The attendant there actually showed me where to look. So the situation is far from hopeless.

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