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danthefossilman

I hope this does not open a can of worms? But I think an open discussion regarding legal vs. illegal collecting practices is worth the time. 

 

I have observed, via a number of threads in posts, some collectors DO NOT appear respectful of current collecting rules and regulations (i.e. collecting vertebrate fossils on public land or unauthorized collecting on private land). 

 

I can already guess, many members are going to ask for specific examples. I really don't want to point fingers. I'm sure, members who have participated in this forum for a long time, recognize this is a on-going issue. People who post may NOT overtly say they are collecting illegally, but the content within the post depicts a picture of illegal collecting (i.e. found whale bones in a drainage ditch with map coordinates that indicate it is a public road easement).

 

I think what typically gets lost in discussion like this are 2 main points: (1) illegal collecting fuels the drive to change BLM collecting rules and regs (which we have seen), and (2) illegal collecting can "cheat" the legitimate scientific community from extracting valuable data (i.e. geologic in-situ information, micro fossils, specific coordinates, etc.).

 

I recently had a in-depth discussion with the head of a paleontology department who said, "most of the surface material (fossils) are of little interest to the museum (unless rare)" as the "scientific data" has been lost. I know what most of us are thinking, which is then why not let us collect surface vertebrate material that is exposed or removed from it's matrix? Well there are some legitimate reason why the current laws are restrictive: (1) some collectors have NO formal training and don't know how to properly identify, classify fossils (don't know the difference between a femur or tibia) (2) some collectors have NO training on how to property excavate fossils (pot hole diggers).

 

I think, in fairness to the online community, it would be beneficial to discuss the "challenges" to legal collecting and the importance of "legitimate" "legal" collecting to protect future collecting opportunities.

 

I personally, would like to see more posted comments instructing members to abide by current laws when it appears members "may be" violating them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18 minutes ago, danthefossilman said:

 

 

I personally, would like to see more posted comments instructing members to abide by current laws when it appears members "may be" violating them.

 

 

In a large number of instances, the Admins and Mods make every effort to remove posts that encourage, or are complicit with, illegal collecting practices. It is our view that we do not condone such practices, and discourage others from flouting the laws. We do try to keep on top it, but sometimes it is not always clear that illegal collecting has occurred.

 

There are a number of posts where questions of legality have come up, particularly around the issue of not knowing the laws, to which we provide the usual refrain: "it is the responsibility of the collector to avail her or himself of the laws of the land, and abide by them; ignorance is no defence and the consequences of getting caught far outweigh any apparent benefits of finding an interesting fossil."

 

At other times, questions of legality are focused on the more abstract discussions on the practicality of laws. This is no way condones breaking laws, but in questioning the value of those laws or alerting other members to changes to those laws. In at least one case I can recall, there was discussion about the "ethics" of collecting with reference to public input on a proposed change to collecting laws. 

 

Debates in the abstract can be generative along the lines you suggest, with one side making a good case for protecting the fossil heritage for experts, while the other side can point to the disservice to science in allowing potential specimens to erode into nothingness. To my mind, it isn't a debate anyone can win, for paleontology also owes a strong debt in its partnership with dedicated amateur collectors (some of whom are featured in our Paleo Partners thread :) ). 

 

Laws and regulations do change over time, and sometimes with more knowledge, public pressure, awareness, or combinations of all three. But, as they say, the wheels of justice grind finely and slowly. ;) That being said, breaking the law is not the appropriate route by which to change the law. It is for that reason that it is pretty much our policy here not to encourage, condone, or promote illegal activity of any kind. :) 

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Fossildude19

We cannot be a repository for all laws concerning fossil collecting, for all states or countries. It's just not feasible. 

 

We also have no ability to investigate posts for the legality of hunting at a certain location.

 

It is assumed, and we trust, that the people reporting their collecting experiences here have the necessary permissions to collect where they do collect. 

 

If a member posts something that is questionable in any way, then the party recognizing the alleged violation should alert the Admins/Mods of possible legality concerns. 

There is a report button to make this an easy step.

I personally have no issue calling someone out when they are suggesting illegal measures.

 

But we should also bear in mind that they may not have mentioned it, but they may have permission from the state, county, city, township or federal government to collect where it appears to be state or federally owned land.  This happened recently, with a whale skull that was collected on park lands in the presence of park rangers. People were jumping to conclusions, not having read the posts properly. 

 

There is also the issue of beating a dead horse. :( How often must we mention legality?

 

It is incumbent upon the collector to know the laws and abide by them.  
 

From the Forums Rules and Community Standards

 

The analogy to a publishing house ends here: The Fossil Forum is not a publisher. You alone are responsible for the content of your submissions. Any opinions stated are not to be considered those of the administrators/moderators, and by posting any text or image, you are attesting that you have the copyright or permission to do so, and that you agree to the following rules:

Prohibited on The Fossil Forum, including private messages and the chat room (transcripts of which are recorded and monitored) are: Pornography, obscenity, illegal acts and expressing disregard for the law, flaming (personal attacks designed to disparage, berate, or insult), offensive or discriminatory remarks (racial, ethnic, sexual, theological, political, etc.), threats, defamation, providing links to any of the above, Spamming, posting of the same text again and again, nonsensical posts that have no substance, or bumping a post for the same effect.  Multiple memberships are not allowed.  Violators of the above are subject to action up to and including banishment.

 

Our position is stated clearly here. 
 

Bottom line ?

 

We don't want it posted here if it is encouraging trespassing, breaking laws,  or violating standards set by legitimate collection groups.

 

 

 

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danthefossilman

I agree, it is an individual responsibility for collectors to comply with state or federal collecting laws.

 

However, when people post information at reflects vertebrate fossils collected in potentially illegal locations, and provide information to "the online community" where the fossil location is, I think we have a "ethical" responsibility to "remind" members what the collecting laws and consequences are. I think If we don't we shouldn't complain with the collecting laws become more restrictive. 

 

There is always a time and energy cost to leadership - 

 

 

 

 

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25 minutes ago, danthefossilman said:

I agree, it is an individual responsibility for collectors to comply with state or federal collecting laws.

 

However, when people post information at reflects vertebrate fossils collected in potentially illegal locations, and provide information to "the online community" where the fossil location is, I think we have a "ethical" responsibility to "remind" members what the collecting laws and consequences are. I think If we don't we shouldn't complain with the collecting laws become more restrictive. 

 

There is always a time and energy cost to leadership - 

 

 

 

 

When dealing with a membership of this size, obviously our small team of Admins and Moderators who certainly put in a great deal of time and energy (ask our spouses!) cannot be everywhere. It is for that reason, as Tim pointed out, that we have a "report" button that alerts us to possible problems that we can follow up on. We do rely on our members to point out issues as they arise if we do not see them.

 

 

 

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On 1/3/2018 at 8:26 AM, danthefossilman said:

I hope this does not open a can of worms? ...

 

I recently had a in-depth discussion with the head of a paleontology department who said, "most of the surface material (fossils) are of little interest to the museum (unless rare)" as the "scientific data" has been lost. I know what most of us are thinking, which is then why not let us collect surface vertebrate material that is exposed or removed from it's matrix? Well there are some legitimate reason why the current laws are restrictive: (1) some collectors have NO formal training and don't know how to properly identify, classify fossils (don't know the difference between a femur or tibia) (2) some collectors have NO training on how to property excavate fossils (pot hole diggers).

...

Wait... You just finished saying that surface-collected fossils do not matter to science (unless rare). Then you said amateurs should not be allowed to collect (even the common stuff?) because they don't know how to collect scientifically. Why would it matter how common things are surface-collected if science doen't need those specimens? :headscratch:

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So as a new member to this forum I read over lots that has been posted as well as stuff for new members.

I saw it stated in many places what the law is overall in the United States.  Some have posted laws from their country.

I also asked about collecting in certain States and was told what their laws may be.  All of this I have encountered in a few months time.

I have as mentioned seen a few posts and threads that may be questionable.  The current rules and laws were passed along in a non threatening way.

It is up to the individual to listen and understand what is presented and to act accordingly.  I personally have read in many places what the law of our land is.

I follow it and wish that we could collect where we wanted especially surface and common verts. on public land.  But we can't. 

 

I learned that at 12 years of age when we found a "sea type dinosaur" fossil in the hills near LA, California.  Called the museum and they came out and looked at it.  Said it was common to the area. Said it was off limits to even take a piece. It was on private property and the owner said no.  From that time on I knew and followed that law.  It is a rule that I wish would change some to allow amateurs to collect verts. from State, public and Federal BLM land.

 

I think this forum has stated it in many places and times what the law is.  It's up to each individual to follow the rules. 

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danthefossilman

I also wish "surface" collecting of exposed "common" species of vertebrate fossils could be collected by non-professionals.

 

I have had several open honest conversations with paleontologists who cite the same objections to our ability to collect exposed surface vertebrates: lack of professional knowledge, training for fossil identification, excavation, preservation, data collection and documentation.

 

 

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Fossildude19
2 hours ago, danthefossilman said:

There is always a time and energy cost to leadership - 

And that cost is paid in full, while our time doing it, is not. ;) 

We do what we can.

But it is not our purview to investigate and question every thread about vertebrate fossil collection by our membership. 

That just is not feasible. 

 

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danthefossilman

It's not me saying the collection of "surface" material should not be allowed. 

 

There is a disconnect between how "we" (amateur collectors) are perceived regarding our training and skill set vs. professionals and how state and federal laws have been structured.

 

Wish there was some type of amateur certification that would at least allow surface collecting?

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danthefossilman
3 minutes ago, Fossildude19 said:

And that cost is paid in full, while our time doing it, is not. ;) 

We do what we can.

But it is not our purview to investigate and question every thread about vertebrate fossil collection by our membership. 

That just is not feasible. 

 

Is there a way members in the broader online community can assist? (i.e. post links reflecting the importance of legal collecting compliance)

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danthefossilman
2 hours ago, Wrangellian said:

Wait... You just finished saying that surface-collected fossils do not matter to science (unless rare). Then you said amateurs should not be allowed to collect (even the common stuff?) because they don't know how to collect scientifically. Why would it matter how common things are surface-collected if science doen't need those specimens? :headscratch:

Posted a thread below. My wish vs, scientific professional objection + legal constraints.

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Fossildude19
1 hour ago, danthefossilman said:

Is there a way members in the broader online community can assist? (i.e. post links reflecting the importance of legal collecting compliance)

The best thing to do if you think someone has posted about illegal collecting, then hit the report button. 

The admins and mods will decide what to do from there. 

 

The issue lies in calling out people for illegally collecting when we may not have the entire story behind their collecting. 

 

You wrote :

"... some collectors DO NOT appear respectful of current collecting rules and regulation"  (emphasis mine) 

 

Appearances can be deceiving. 

Posting of GPS coordinates or directions to a specific fossil site on a well known, highly trafficked website, such as this Forum is quite thoughtless, and we often edit those details out, or urge the OP to do so, when we see this type of thing.

 

Pointing fingers and making accusations without proof is a slippery slope, bound to bring drama to this forum, which is what we strive to avoid here. ;) 

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2 hours ago, danthefossilman said:

I also wish "surface" collecting of exposed "common" species of vertebrate fossils could be collected by non-professionals.

 

I have had several open honest conversations with paleontologists who cite the same objections to our ability to collect exposed surface vertebrates: lack of professional knowledge, training for fossil identification, excavation, preservation, data collection and documentation.

 

 

I'm a little confused over what you mean by “surface” collecting. I always thought it meant fossils that were just lying on the surface but in this thread it seems to be conflated with some element of “excavation” in some cases. I never heard of anyone doing any digging for a fossil that wasn't already partly exposed on the surface so that is one of the two kinds of collecting. If that is considered "surface collecting" that doesn't leave us a word for collecting fossils that don't need excavation and for context that can be important.

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On 1/3/2018 at 11:26 AM, danthefossilman said:

 

I have observed, via a number of threads in posts, some collectors DO NOT appear respectful of current collecting rules and regulations (i.e. collecting vertebrate fossils on public land or unauthorized collecting on private land). 

Is it possible that you have misunderstood the rules and regulations? Collecting vertebrate fossils on public lands is not illegal everywhere. I think you have confused “public lands” with “federal lands”. Many public lands in the eastern US allow vertebrate fossils to be collected. Laws on non-federal public lands are controlled by other agencies, usually the state.

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Agree with Al Dente. BLM has almost no meaning in my state of Florida.  The Jupiter Inlet may have a couple of square miles.

Public lands are "in general" controlled by state and local rules. The vast majority of river bottom is open to fossil hunting with a $5 yearly permit.

 

My basic thought process is that actual state laws with fines and penalties apply to trespassing on private or public lands.  I expect and hope that authorities enforce existing law. 

On my treasured Peace River, I sometimes notify Fish & Wildlife when I encounter egregious violations like excavating the river bank with power motors. Thankfully, that activity is not a common occurrence.

 

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Some things are legal in some areas and illegal in others... we can't always assume a poster is doing something illegal.

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Even what is considered private property can vary from state to state. In Texas many (but not all) privately owned creeks are open to public collecting. Some of us always ask permission anyway and respect property owners preferences just to keep the collecting community in higher regard.

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Interesting post.  It leaves me wondering if I am one of those that the OP considers suspect, since I post a lot about my adventures collecting all sorts of vertebrate fossils.  (OK, I haven't posted much lately cuz my wife and I bought a new house and it has kept me mostly away from weekend fossil outings).  But... let me state that all the vert fossils I collect for myself and post here are on private land with the landowners' permission.  I am proud of and secretive with the connections I have made with landowners who allow me to collect and am very thankful to them all, but I will not post things like exact details on the interwebs to prove that I am legal.  (I also have a few BLM permits and collect on BLM lands for work but I rarely post those).  From now on in my field trip posts I will state that I have permission... :)  

 

As for this statement... "most of the surface material (fossils) are of little interest to the museum (unless rare)"  originally stated by a local paleontologist... This may be true for isolated parts and pieces such as shark teeth, but surface scraps are some of the clues we look for to find good complete bones in say the White River Fm and especially the dinosaurs of the Lance and Morrison Fms.   So, I will disagree with this quote.  It does take a little training to know which surface finds should be treated as clues, and which are indeed isolated bones or bone bits. 

 

Thanks for listening.  

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Harry Pristis
I think that criticism of unnamed TFF members over their imagined offenses reeks of pomposity.  Danthefossilman has been spending too much time with professional paleontologists . . . he's beginning to sound like one.
 
Perhaps the tension between amateurs and professionals (and their institutions) remains more infectious than generally realized. A clue to the scope of the problem may be found in the procedings of the 1987 annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists.
 
At that meeting, the vast majority of professionals voted to reject the recent recommendations of the National Research Council on regulating paleontological collecting. The NRC recommendations are a blueprint for reconciling the interests of professionals, amateurs, and even commercial collectors. For most of us, it is hard to find fault with the insights, the logic, and the compromises recommended by the NRC panel of experts; but, the SVP professionals manage to do so.  The SVP has consistently lobbied for the most restrictive laws and regulations.
 
What motivates vertebrate paleontologists (and their institutions) to reject compromise, to want it all their way? Their argument is well known: "There is a Sacred Duty to collect, curate, and interpret the limited vertebrate fossils resources in order to add to the pool of human knowledge." Whether or not they believe in the Sacred Duty concept, some professionals (and institutions) seem to find it a convenient rationale for exploiting amateurs. In the professionals' view, amateurs are usually a necessary evil, sometimes a curse, rarely an asset; amateurs and commercial collectors are the competition!
 
The reality is that professional careers are built on acquiring significant fossil material. Significant material means institutional prestige. It also leads to publishable research; publication leads to a better job, tenure, grant money, status among peers, travel, and other good things. Getting significant fossils can mean the difference between being curator at a prestigious museum or teaching earth science at a community college.
 
Considering the importance of significant fossils to the professional, it is understandable that he may perceive amateurs as unreliable and undesirable competition. In this light, it becomes clear just how useful to an ambitious professional the "Sacred Duty" rationale can be: it is at once the moral high ground AND an excuse for actions which would be unthinkable in another context.
 
Holding this self-erected moral high ground and driven by ideology or career ambition, perspective and sense of fair-play can become distorted. Fossil collectors, both amateur and commercial, may be seen as the forces of chaos and destruction which must be defeated or, at least, controlled (permits). Compromise may be viewed as a victory for evil. I think these are the notions which may cloud the judgement of professionals and their institutions.
 
Despite the Sacred Duty demagoguery, there may still be professionals who try as best they can to deal honestly and equitably with collectors. There will always be misunderstandings and misperceptions in this arena of conflicting interests, but a totally predaceous professional probably is as rare as a collector motivated solely by greed.
 
Collectors must seek out the cooperative professionals and institutions to share information, sites, and fossils; and they must avoid the predaceous ones! Unfortunately, the good guys are not always readily distinguishable from the bad guys in this arena. A collector should SHOP for a professional paleontologist as he would for any other professional, say like an automobile mechanic. How has he dealt with other collectors? Is he accessible? Does he perform as promised? Is he honest?
 
An auto mechanic who does not earn a good reputation gets FEWER NEW CUSTOMERS and NO REPEAT BUSINESS. So it should be with the professional paleontologist and his institution! Collectors should apply this free-market strategy relentlessly in their dealings with professionals. When getting access to significant fossils becomes more clearly tied to reputation for fair-play, professionals will be more inclined to enter into cooperative, non-exploitive relationships with collectors. There is, after all, a duty which transcends the professionals' "Sacred Duty." That transcendent duty is usually called the Golden Rule.
 
 
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danthefossilman

I am glad to see so many informative posts.

 

Hope the dialogue has helped.

 

I think, at a minimum, "clarifying" Vert fossils were collected legally within posts is a great start. It means the person who posted understands and abides by collecting rules and regs.

 

As I live in California, I am familiar with the collecting laws here.

 

I think experienced members in different states, can "weigh in" if clarification is needed to members who may not understand collecting rules in their locals or direct, via links, members to online resources.

 

In this way, we as an legitimate online collecting community, help take a leadership role in promoting legal collecting standards.

 

Perhaps we can become an example to the fossil collecting community at large?

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1 minute ago, danthefossilman said:

 

I think, at a minimum, "clarifying" Vert fossils were collected legally within posts is a great start. It means the person who posted understands and abides by collecting rules and regs.

 

I'm not sure how this could be implemented, as it might become cumbersome for all members who collect verts to preface their fossil hunting trips, etc., with a claim that they did so legally.

 

It would be a little like reporting on what we bought at the store and prefacing it with "and I didn't shoplift it!" It may be easier to assume the principle of charity whereby we should assume the member who has collected the fossil did so within the bounds of the law. In this way, we extend to all our members the very best interpretation of their collecting activity, and provide them with the benefit of the doubt. 

 

8 minutes ago, danthefossilman said:

 

Perhaps we can become an example to the fossil collecting community at large?

I may be biased, but I thought we already were! :) And, for many more reasons than just obeying the laws, but for the help we provide members, the valuable information we share, the encouragement and support this community provides, and in being the ideal location online where professionals and amateurs share their passion. 

 

With an international membership nearing 25,000, not only is TFF largely a low-drama refuge from so much hostility and frivolity online, but we also count among our ranks many world-class professionals in their respective fields who kindly participate and share their expertise with everyone. I sincerely can't think of a better yardstick for an online fossil community than this one! :) 

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9 minutes ago, danthefossilman said:

....

 

Perhaps we can become an example to the fossil collecting community at large?

I think we have been...and will continue to be. 

;)

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danthefossilman
2 hours ago, Kane said:

I'm not sure how this could be implemented, as it might become cumbersome for all members who collect verts to preface their fossil hunting trips, etc., with a claim that they did so legally.

 

It would be a little like reporting on what we bought at the store and prefacing it with "and I didn't shoplift it!" It may be easier to assume the principle of charity whereby we should assume the member who has collected the fossil did so within the bounds of the law. In this way, we extend to all our members the very best interpretation of their collecting activity, and provide them with the benefit of the doubt. 

 

 

I think I have a really GOOD IDEA. Why don't we have a logo that has a link to a member pledge that is attached to our profile (shows at the bottom of posts)  that demonstrates (without words) we collect in compliance with State and Federal laws. I cannot see a man-power down-side to this? 

 

 

 

 

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Although it is a good idea, I will quote Kane:

It would be a little like reporting on what we bought at the store and prefacing it with "and I didn't shoplift it!" It may be easier to assume the principle of charity whereby we should assume the member who has collected the fossil did so within the bounds of the law. In this way, we extend to all our members the very best interpretation of their collecting activity, and provide them with the benefit of the doubt. 

 

About twenty years ago, a teenager friend of mine told me that the only kids who wore DARE t-shirts were the druggies.  

 

 

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