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jgcox

New Collecting Ban Proposed

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jgcox

Received this from the AAPS:

AAPS Member John McNamara sent me the following, and I wish to share it with all AAPS members. - George Winters, Administrative Director
My thoughts on this are as follows. This legislation is not limited to tusks and ivory as many John Q Public voters would think it is. Every state bill and law defines ivory rather loosely with most declaring ivory to be "ANY tooth or tusk from ANY animal". Massachusetts defines ivory as any tooth or tusk from, BUT NOT LIMITED TO......, which means legally, this could encompass ANY tooth of any vertebrate, extinct or extant. The objective of the law is to stop not just elephant slaughter but any illegal wildlife trafficking, as most bills declare. Therefore, ANY fossil remains of animals.... ALL animals, are open to future bans since most fossils are of "wildlife" and based on the dangerous precedent set with the inclusion of fossils in these current bills and laws. Currently, all wildlife remains are regulated or banned. If we are declaring that it is difficult to determine fossil from modern remains of certain animals, then the case is made that ALL fossil remains should be included in such regulations or bans. More dangerous is the fact that legal precedent is already set to make this a reality as preposterous as it seems. One of the stated objectives of including fossils in said bans is that it relieves law enforcement of the burden to discern modern vs. prehistoric remains. That's ludicrous as the very essence and duty of law enforcement is to discern legal from illegal. By including fossils in the way these laws are being justified, then ANY fossil that might possibly be confused or believed to be modern, would be fair game to outlaw.
For those that consider themselves safe in that they do not deal in fossils that would apply here, understand this is the tip of the iceberg and no one is safe. Wording in some of these bills identifies fossils as "precious artifacts that need protection" (Rhode Island). So we now have legislation being drafted and establishing fossils as precious and needing protection, where could this go? Rhode Island words their bill as follows that fossils are "(4) Precious artifacts from prehistoric mammoths are also not safe and need protection from illegal ivory traffickers;". If fossils are classified as "precious artifacts" that need protection, how much into the future is the general U.S. public made to believe that ALL fossils found in the United States are "precious artifacts" that need protection and therefore, are made illegal? We are already seeing U.S. federal law enforcement pressing down heavily over all fossil and artifact trade under the auspices that this market funds illicit activities and terrorist organizations. With the incredulous bans of mammoth remains from 100,000 years ago being necessary to protect modern elephants, anything is possible with ignorance at the helm of U.S. law-making.
The effect of these laws are sure to be catastrophic to commercial paleontology in America. Moreover, they would pose a serious blow to U.S. public education in a country that is already grappling with poor educational scores on a global level in comparison to other countries. The historical awareness that comes with the private ownership of fossils like the ones here in the bans, is a priceless reward we cannot afford to see squandered by the misguided few. How many teachers and students have brought in their own fossils to school or to a civic group to show a multitude of people that may otherwise never see a real fossil? How many kids and adults are made aware of the value of paleontology by the dissemination of fossils amongst individual private collections? All this would end abruptly should the ridiculous legislation continue on the course it is on now.
A basic knowledge of the U.S. legal system is all that is needed to know that laws lead to more laws and, precedent comes easily but is overturned rarely. It also goes without saying that a trend in state level legislation motivates national legislation.
I believe the AAPS should be behind a "grass roots" campaign for all members to contact their lawmakers and push for the exemption of ALL fossil material from these laws before we are further demonized on a public and national level as being complicit in illegal activities that "fund the military operations of notorious terrorist groups" as one bill reads.
See this http://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/african-elephant-4d-proposed-changes.pdf#page5, Comments for a national law revision per the link above, ends on Sept 28, 20days! There should be comments to the feds that request a total exemption on fossils. I found a link the other day (have to find it) where a paleontologist is being interviewed and other scientific professionals are chiming in that they want to see bans on fossils made under the umbrella of wildlife protection laws, just as I commented to you. I found that article AFTER I wrote so it may come sooner than we think. One paleontologist is quoted as saying such a law would end any amateur cooperation so there are academics that would argue in favor of the commercial side, to the US but action is needed NOW.
We are at a moment of enormous legal ramifications with regards to commercial paleontology right now. These laws are the FIRST laws in America that ban the sale, possession with intent to deliver, import and export of common fossils.
Even a simple form letter that can be sent to all state and federal representatives, would be nice. If you woud liek to work on a committee to address these issues, please contact george@stonejungle.com
Sincerely,
John McNamara, President
Paleo Direct, Inc.

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Auspex

While I applaud the intent (stopping illegal wildlife trade), the proposed law is far too vague, and would not withstand a legal challenge. If the authors want to do more than make a public statement with this, they will need to limit its scope to extant protected species.

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jgcox

I agree in the vagueness of the proposal but tie this to the Forest Services ban on any collecting and the BLMs proposals this is another brick in a wall to stop all collecting of fossils by anyone except Licensed paleontologists.

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Runner64

Man this is scary. Coming from someone that collects teeth, this is a big concern. Would this also ban the import of foreign fossils?

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jpevahouse

Last year New Jersey enacted a law banning ivory of any kind specifically including mammoth, mastodon, walrus and whale teeth. I think the trend will continue nationwide. US law currently only prohibits modern ivory but excludes ivory over a century old. States are allowed to enact their on laws as long as they have stricter provisions.

The gun laws in NJ are notoriously vague and confusing. Legislators do not always do a good job drafting clearly understandable law. Mastodon and walrus irvory recovered offshore NJ are not suitable for commercial use. They are usually too brittle and often too mineralized. So, I see no need to prohibit NJ fossil ivory but legislators are not paleontologists or fossil collectors. They are politicians bending to popular trend so as to hopefully be reelected.

There has admittedly been great abuse of our historical resources by both treasure hunter types and collectors thoughout the history of this country. Nothing perceived as having a good resale value is going to go unexploited. Such is human nature. But at the same time there is nothing wrong with individuals, non professionals obtaining historical objects as long as it doesn't involve the greater destruction of historical sites nor interfer with scientific study.

Someday the US will have wider reaching laws prohibiting obtaining, owning and selling of historical resources. It's coming, only a matter of time.

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reddesilets

Oh boy... *sigh* :/

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reddesilets

I've contacted a state level senator here in SC to see how this might impact fossil hunters here. I skimmed through the docket and they are very specific about it relating to African elephants, but I see your concern about how that legislation may affect things on state/local levels...

*edit: I reminded the senator that Mastodons were in SC and asked about fossil hunting in particular

Edited by reddesilets

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Raggedy Man

Gotta love US Law making...general and vague....murica

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jpevahouse

I wonder what would have happened had collectors found the Grey fossil site in Tennessee first. The site is the most significant paleontology site in the state of it's type. The site was uncovered during construction and professional paleontologist had the opportunity take charge from the beginning. If the fossils had been removed from their original context and ended up on eBay or fossil and mineral shows through the hands of collector/dealers the scientific value of the fossils would have been greatly impaired or destroyed altogether.

I can agree with authorities protecting sites of special scientific importance because fossils in their origin context produced infinitely more scientific data than random finds scattered by erosion in stream beds. However, random scattered fossils commonly found by collectors have much less scientific value and would in my opinion not merit legal protection in most cases. I'm sure there are exceptions but generally I think this is true.

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jpevahouse

I've contacted a state level senator here in SC to see how this might impact fossil hunters here. I skimmed through the docket and they are very specific about it relating to African elephants, but I see your concern about how that legislation may affect things on state/local levels...

*edit: I reminded the senator that Mastodons were in SC and asked about fossil hunting in particular

I've been buying Pleistocene fossils from South Carolina lately found by scuba diving in a coastal river. They are nice to have in my collection but probably more for collectors than scientist considering how they were found. Determining age would in most cases be wild speculation at best. Once a fossil is removed from it's original context it's scientific value dimenishes greatly. Neat to own but unlikely to end up in a scientific study. Something as common as a horse tooth found in the right context can shape how science interprets history. yet, out of context has little value.

I doubt legislators can ever sort out the issue of scientific value vs collector value when writing laws. That is what understandably penalizes and frustrates collectors. Not every old thing is of great value scientific or otherwise.

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reddesilets

Exactly, jpevahouse.

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Velociraptor99

The real question is, how will this affect me, and other ordinary fossil collectors like myself? Being 16 years old, legal Mumbo jumbo is nearly impossible to comprehend, especially when they (the sneaky politicians) word it vaguely and awkwardly. Will I no longer be able to collect fossils? If so I guess it's back to playing video games all day in isolation.

Thank you for a heads up.

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FLINTandBONE

Will I no longer be able to collect fossils? If so I guess it's back to playing video games all day in isolation.

That is sad to read but unfortunately true. Past generations had much less restrictions on what they could do and as our country grows and matures there are more and more laws which make less hobbies viable or even legal due to heavy restrictions and regulations. Those laws are designed to improve or preserve something but in many cases they just cause more issues. There is nothing wrong with video games but I see your point about hobbies being made difficult or impossible and I agree.

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FossilDAWG

I agree in the vagueness of the proposal but tie this to the Forest Services ban on any collecting ...

I wonder how many times this falsehood has to be stated before it becomes true.

Don

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Auspex

I wonder how many times this falsehood has to be stated before it becomes true.

Don

>sigh<

Let's review the facts, one more time: LINK

WAY too much rumor and innuendo flying around...

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jpevahouse

There are many levels of the law, national, state, county and municipal. Any of these can enforce their own regulations pertaining to hunting and removing historical objects of any kind. I spent time sorting out the Crosswicks Creek issue by speaking with both the Monmouth County and Burlington County folks in charge. Monmouth County was clear, no hunting in the greenway nature preserve. Burlington county seemed surprised I asked. They have no restrictions on Crosswicks Creek other than those which may pertain to private ownership.

Not long ago we wouldn't have considered laws would be enacted to limit or prohibit access to fossil or historic sites and artifacts. Now it's conceivable and as the big ball of government rolls along it will in time become an even bigger issue. Law seldom rolls back, it only goes forward becoming more and more restrictive.

Edited by jpevahouse

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squali

If a tusk has become fossilized it is not ivory.

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Auspex

Because the legislators do not know anything about fossils (or ivory, for that matter), they may think that distinguishing between fossil and modern ivory will be difficult, and will be a loophole for ivory smugglers. They need to be educated.

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jpevahouse

I think legislators in NJ are concerned that modern ivory is or will be disquised as old ivory to avoid legal restrictions. I don't keep up with the ivory trade and don't know if that really happens or how common it might be if it does? There's a good documentary on mammoth ivory trade in Russia. It's an industry. I read an article about a guy in Alaska who found a complete mammoth tusk. He said he planned to have it carved all over with figures. I cringe at the thought but to plenty of people it would seem like a good idea.

Mammoth ivory is not rare or endangered. With the continued melting of permafrost large amounts of mammoth remains are being exposed every year. Estimates for the amount of mammoth remains under the permafrost in Siberia are staggering to a fossil collector, an exciting opportunity for ivory dealers.

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FossilDAWG

Not long ago we wouldn't have considered laws would be enacted to limit or prohibit access to fossil or historic sites and artifacts.

How well did that work out? I'm pretty sure "pot hunters" have been responsible for destroying a lot of irreplaceable archaeological data. Often laws are a response to flagrant abuses by selfish individuals who have no regard for anything except their own profit. Who is to blame when restrictive laws are passed, legislators who craft broadly worded laws or collectors (both private and commercial) who would dig up and destroy entire ancient village sites (or civil war battlefields, and on and on) to get at a few showy or valuable artifacts? This is not much different from collectors who abuse sites and get them closed, at which point people tend to get upset at the landowner more than the abuser who pushed the landowner too far.

Regarding the post that started this thread, it is worth noting that the author (not the person who made the post, who just passed on the letter) is a commercial dealer with a financial interest in unrestricted trade. The letter presents a "sky is falling" scenario that "all animal teeth and tusks" will be banned; do they imagine this will include shark teeth, dinosaur teeth, oreodonts, etc? The proposed laws exempt documented antiques. One can certainly distinguish intact fossils of mammoth/mastodon/gomphothere teeth and tusks from modern elephants. This is the type of material fossil collectors are interested in. The problem is carved ivory objects. There is now a thriving commercial business in using mastodon/mammoth material as starting material for such products, and it is indeed difficult and expensive to determine if a particular carved object is made of fossil or modern ivory. Who will bear the cost of C14 dating every suspect carving or knife handle? It is easy to complain about a law restricting one's commercial business or private interest in selling or owning fossil elephant specimens. It is something else again to propose actual workable mechanisms that would allow trade in fossil material while avoiding creating truck-sized loopholes poachers and ivory smugglers can exploit, and that would not impose insurmountable financial burdens on law enforcement. Nevertheless, if we want to both be able to continue to own/trade in fossil elephants and have actual living elephants still around, we need to do more than whine and complain, we need to suggest realistic workable remedies to the problem.

Don

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jpevahouse

The absolute worse abuse by collectors I know of happened a few years ago. People looking for Civil War relics dug up graves of black Civil War veterans buried in a remote Long Island cemetery. The most they might have found would be few brass buttons but probably nothing of value. Low as low will go.

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squali

Well said Don.

It all comes down to having your voice heard

When laws are being created.

Government servants are not required to understand

What they do, but to do it.

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amour 25

Last year New Jersey enacted a law banning ivory of any kind specifically including mammoth, mastodon, walrus and whale teeth. I think the trend will continue nationwide. US law currently only prohibits modern ivory but excludes ivory over a century old. States are allowed to enact their on laws as long as they have stricter provisions.

The gun laws in NJ are notoriously vague and confusing. Legislators do not always do a good job drafting clearly understandable law. Mastodon and walrus irvory recovered offshore NJ are not suitable for commercial use. They are usually too brittle and often too mineralized. So, I see no need to prohibit NJ fossil ivory but legislators are not paleontologists or fossil collectors. They are politicians bending to popular trend so as to hopefully be reelected.

There has admittedly been great abuse of our historical resources by both treasure hunter types and collectors thoughout the history of this country. Nothing perceived as having a good resale value is going to go unexploited. Such is human nature. But at the same time there is nothing wrong with individuals, non professionals obtaining historical objects as long as it doesn't involve the greater destruction of historical sites nor interfer with scientific study.

Someday the US will have wider reaching laws prohibiting obtaining, owning and selling of historical resources. It's coming, only a matter of time.

Don't think OK would follow what NJ does. LOL

Just saying . LOL

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