Policy Statements

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Hails Fossil Preservation Bill

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology expressed its strong support the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act. S. 546 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Daniel Akaka and a bipartisan group of senators and H. R. 2416 was introduced in the House by Congressmen James P. McGovern, Scott McInnis and a bipartisan group of House members.

"We're pleased to see legislation that recognizes that vertebrate fossils from public lands are an educational and scientific resource for our generation and those yet to come. Both bills will ensure that these fossils will not be removed from the public domain, but preserved for the enjoyment and education of all Americans for all time," said SVP President Hans-Dieter Sues.

The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act codifies the existing practice of vertebrate fossils and other rare and scientifically significant fossils be collected only by qualified researchers who obtain a permit and agree to deposit the fossils in public institutions that will ensure their future availability to researchers and the public. It incorporates the recommendations contained in a report to Congress issued in 2000 by the Secretary of the Interior with input from federal land management agencies, the Smithsonian Institution, the United States Geological Survey, the paleontological community and the general public.

This report found:

  • Most vertebrate fossils are rare and some invertebrate and plant fossils are rare.
  • Strengthened penalties for fossil theft are needed.
  • Effective stewardship requires accurate information.
  • Federal fossil collections should be preserved and available for research and public education.
  • Federal fossil management should emphasize opportunities for public involvement.

It also found that there is a very serious problem with illegal collecting and theft of fossils from public lands.

Sues added that he was happy to see that the interests of the wider paleontological community were recognized as the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act puts no new restrictions on amateur collecting.

"It's important for everyone to recognize how this bill reflects the shared consensus of the federal land management agencies, the paleontological community, and the general public," he said. Sues concluded by stating, "This bill will ensure that future generations will be able to learn from the fossil record, the only resource in the world by which we can learn about the history of past life."

Founded in 1940, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology now has nearly 2,000 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators and others interested in Vertebrate Paleontology. The Society is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes. The object of the Society is to advance the science of vertebrate paleontology and to serve the common interests and facilitate the cooperation of all persons concerned with the history, evolution, comparative anatomy, and taxonomy of vertebrate animals, as well as field occurrence, collection, and study of fossil vertebrates and the stratigraphy of the beds in which they are found. The Society is also concerned with the conservation and preservation of fossil sites.