are rare glimpses of past life. Countless animals die each year
but only a few are protected from decay, sheltered in the layers
of earth, to become fossils. Even fewer are ever found.
lying undisturbed for millions of year, exposure at the surface
endangers the fossil. Mining, construction, and erosion destroy
countless fossils. Wind and water naturaly wear away delicate
structures and scatter fragments. A fossil that is discovered by
a caring individual and preserved for study is rare.
are hunted for their scientific, recreational, and economic
value. Private companies, individuals, museums, and universities
all seek specimens for their collections. Finding, excavating,
and preparing specimens are costly. Their value is determined by
the market demand, scientific potential, and individual quality.
protect many state and federal lands from unnecessary fossil
collecting. (Collecting fossils, stones, plants, and
archeological material is prohibited on all parks, preserves,
waterways and lands owned by the state of Iowa.) Permits are
required in many areas and proposed federal legislation would
establish stricter laws over use of paleontological resources.
Private lands are not covered by current or proposed laws, but
the collector should always receive the landowner's permission
before entering private property.
Controversy for Collectors: What
should be protected--fossils, or the right to collect fossils? Currently,
some Americans propose that congress pass the "Vertebrate
Paleontology Protection Act" to limit fossil-collecting on
federal lands. They encourage state to pass similar laws.
of the proposed law argue that vertebrate fossils:
a non-renewable resource;
part of our natural heritage;
documented and excavated fossils are of greater significance
protect these resources, the proposed law would:
a permit system for all collectors;
collecting for private and commercial uses;
expansion of the National Paleontological data base;
prohibit the sale of vertebrate fossils collected under
law would not restrict collecting on private land.)
argue that this proposed law:
not protect vertebrate fossils that are destroyed by mining
other permit requirements on many federal lands;
amateur collecting, which; encourages future scientists, l
new fossil sites, and fosters an interest in our natural
overlooks the value of commercial collecting, which
increases the chances of significant discoveries and adds to
the pool of available specimens for research and display.