STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - July 12, 2002)
[Page: S6708]
---

   By Mr. AKAKA:

   S. 2727. A bill to provide for the protection of paleontological resources on Federal lands, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

   Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act to protect and preserve the Nation's important fossil record for the benefit of our citizens. Vertebrate fossils are rare and valuable natural resources that are threatened by a growing commercial market which is being supplied, in part, by the illegal collection of fossil specimens. This Act establishes a comprehensive national policy for preserving and managing paleontological resources found on Federal lands. It provides uniformity to the patchwork of statutes and regulations that currently exist, and it ensures that the

[Page: S6709]
public will have educational and scientific access to this part of their geological and biological past.

   I would like to emphasize that this bill in no way affects archaeological or cultural resources under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 or the Native American Graves Protection and Rehabilitation Act. They are exempted. This bill covers paleontological remains, fossils on Federal lands only.

   Fossils are the remains, imprints and traces of once-living organisms preserved in the earth's crust. Fossils of vertebrates are the remains of animals with a backbone or spinal column, such as dinosaur bones, sabertooth tiger teeth, or imprints of bear paws and mammoth tusks. The fossil record is our only evidence that life existed on earth 3.5 billion years ago. Fossils show us that dinosaurs evolved about 220 million years ago, and that four-legged creatures first walked on land about 350 million years ago. Fossils tell us how the physical earth has changed over time, how the climate has warmed and cooled, and how the mountains have been lifted up from the ocean depths. Fossils can also explain how living things have responded to changing conditions, such as why mass extinctions of species have occurred at certain times in our planet's history.

   In 1999, Congress requested that the Secretary of the Interior review and report on the Federal policy concerning paleontological resources on Federal lands. In its request, Congress noted that no unified Federal policy exists regarding the treatment of fossils by Federal land management agencies, and our concern was that the lack of appropriate standards would lead to the deterioration or loss of fossils, which are valuable scientific resources.

   In response, seven Federal agencies and the Smithsonian Institution released a report in May 2000 entitled, ``Assessment of Fossil Management on Federal and Indian Lands.'' The report presented seven governing principles for the management of fossils on Federal lands. These principles are that fossils on Federal lands are rare and a part of America's heritage; that effective stewardship requires accurate information and inventories; that penalties for fossil theft should be strengthened; and that Federal fossil collections should be preserved and available for research and public education.

   The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act embodies these principles, and provides the paleontological equivalent of protections found in the Archeological Resources Preservation Act. The bill finds that fossil resources on Federal lands are an irreplaceable part of the heritage of the United States. It affirms that reasonable access to fossil resources should be provided for scientific, educational, and recreational purposes. The bill acknowledges the value of amateur collecting, but protects vertebrate fossils under a system of permits.

   You might wonder why such a bill is needed. Who would want to take these fossils, and what

   would a person do with them? Let me give you an example. On September 24, 2000, four individuals at Badlands National Park in South Dakota collected 1,700 fossil specimens that represented a variety of different types of animals. This area was scheduled for a scientific survey in July 2002, but because these four individuals removed the fossils from their context, scientists could no longer ascertain the position of the fossils in the layers of rock, and the scientific and educational value of the fossils was destroyed. So what happened to these individuals? To be honest, not much. Each one of the four was fined between $250 and $1,000 for the theft of 1,700 pieces of our paleontological history.

   You might think the fines were a lot of money until you realize how much fossils are worth. Trade in fossils is big business. With the popularity of paleontology programs on the Discovery Channel and movies like Jurassic Park, people are starting their own collections at home, and corporations are buying fossils as investments, similar to the purchase of works of art. For example, the complete skeleton of a T-Rex was recently sold for $8.6 million at auction to the Field Museum of Chicago.

   Paleontological resources can be sold on the market for a hefty price, and they are being stolen from public lands without regard to science and education. Even worse is the fact that the people who steal fossils aren't being held responsible for their actions and there is no incentive to stop the theft in the future. Less than one percent of organisms become fossils, and they are the key to understanding evolutionary patterns and processes. We need to protect these resources before it's too late.

   The protections I offer in this Act are not new. Federal land management agencies have individual regulations prohibiting theft of government property. However, the reality is that U.S. Attorneys are reluctant to prosecute cases involving fossil theft because they are difficult. We in Congress have not provided a clear statute stating the value of paleontological resources to our nation, as we did for archeological resources. Fossils are too valuable to be left within the general theft provisions that are impossible to defend in court, and they are too valuable to the education of our children to not ensure public access. We need to work together to make sure that we in Congress fulfill our responsibility as stewards of public lands, and as protectors of our nation's natural resources.

   I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

   There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

S. 2727

   Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

   SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

   This Act may be cited as the ``Paleontological Resources Preservation Act''.

   SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

   The Congress finds the following:

    (1) Paleontological resources are nonrenewable. Such resources on Federal lands are an accessible and irreplaceable part of the heritage of the United States and offer significant educational opportunities to all citizens.

    (2) Existing Federal laws, statutes, and other provisions that manage paleontological resources are not articulated in a unified national policy for Federal land management agencies and the public. Such a policy is needed to improve scientific understanding, to promote responsible stewardship, and to facilitate the enhancement of responsible paleontological collecting activities on Federal lands.

    (3) Consistent with the statutory provisions applicable to each Federal land management system, reasonable access to paleontological resources on Federal lands should be provided for scientific, educational, and recreational purposes.

   SEC. 3. PURPOSE.

   The purpose of this Act is to establish a comprehensive national policy for preserving and managing paleontological resources on Federal lands.

   SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.

   As used in this Act:

    (1) Casual collecting.--The term ``casual collecting'' means the collecting of a reasonable amount of paleontological resources for noncommercial use with the use of non-powered hand tools resulting in negligible disturbance to the Earth's surface.

    (2) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the Interior with respect to lands administered by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to National Forest System Lands administered by the Secretary of Agriculture.

    (3) Federal lands.--The term ``Federal lands'' means lands administered by the Secretary of the Interior or National Forest System Lands administered by the Secretary of Agriculture.

    (4) Person.--The term ``person' includes an individual, corporation, partnership, trust, institution, association, any other private entity, an officer, employee, agent, department, or instrumentality of the United States, an Indian tribe, and a State or political subdivision of a State.

    (5) State.--The term ``State'' means the fifty States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States.

    (6) Paleontological resource.--The term ``paleontological resource'' means any fossilized remains, traces, or imprints of organisms, preserved in or on the Earth's crust, except that the term does not include--

    (A) any materials associated with an archaeological resource (as defined in section 3(1) of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470bb(1));

    (B) any cultural item (as defined in section 2 of the Native American Graves Protection and Rehabilitation Act (25 U.S.C. 3001)); or

    (C) energy minerals such as coal, oil and gas, oil shale, bitumen, lignite, asphaltum, and tar sands.

   SEC. 5. MANAGEMENT.

   (a) IN GENERAL.--The Secretary shall manage and protect paleontological resources on Federal lands using scientific principles and expertise. The Secretary shall develop appropriate plans for inventory, monitoring, and

[Page: S6710]
the scientific and educational use of paleontological resources, in accordance with applicable agency laws, regulations, and policies. These plans shall emphasize interagency coordination and collaborative efforts where possible with non-Federal partners, the scientific community, and the general public.

   (b) COORDINATION OF IMPLEMENTATION.--To the extent possible, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture shall coordinate in the implementation of this Act.

   SEC. 6. PUBLIC AWARENESS AND EDUCATION PROGRAM.

   The Secretary shall establish a program to increase public awareness about the significance of paleontological resources.

   SEC. 7. COLLECTION OF PALEONTOLOGICAL RESOURCES.

   (a) PERMIT REQUIREMENT.--

    (1) IN GENERAL.--Except as provided in this subsection, a paleontological resource may not be collected from Federal lands without a permit issued under this Act by the Secretary.

    (2) CASUAL COLLECTING EXCEPTION.--The Secretary may allow casual collecting of abundant invertebrate and plant paleontological resources, for scientific, educational, and recreational uses, without a permit, where such collection is consistent with the laws governing the management of those Federal lands and this Act.

    (3) PREVIOUS PERMIT EXCEPTION.--Nothing in this section shall affect a valid permit issued prior to the date of enactment of this Act.

   (b) CRITERIA FOR ISSUANCE OF A PERMIT.--The Secretary may issue a permit for the collection of a paleontological resource pursuant to an application if the Secretary determines that--

    (1) the applicant is qualified to carry out the permitted activity;

    (2) the permitted activity is undertaken for the purpose of furthering paleontological knowledge or for public education;

    (3) the permitted activity is consistent with any management plan applicable to the Federal lands concerned; and

    (4) the proposed methods of collecting will not threaten significant natural or cultural resources.

   (c) PERMIT SPECIFICATIONS.--A permit for the collection of a paleontological resource issued under this section shall contain such terms and conditions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act. Every permit shall include requirements that--

    (1) the paleontological resource that is collected from Federal lands under the permit will remain the property of the United States;

    (2) the paleontological resource and copies of associated records will be preserved for the public in an approved repository, to be made available for scientific research and public education; and

    (3) specific locality data will not be released by the permittee or repository without the written permission of the Secretary.

   (d) MODIFICATION, SUSPENSION, AND REVOCATION OF PERMITS.--

    (1) The Secretary shall modify, suspend, or revoke a permit--

    (A) for resource, safety, or other management considerations; or

    (B) when there is a violation of term or condition of a permit issued pursuant to this section.

    (2) The permit shall be revoked if any person working under the authority of the permit is convicted under section 9 or is assessed a civil penalty under section 10.

   (e) AREA CLOSURES.--In order to protect paleontological resource or other resources and to provide for public safety, the Secretary may restrict access to or close areas under the Secretary's jurisdiction to the collection of paleontological resources.

   SEC. 8. CURATION OF RESOURCES.

   Any paleontological resource, and any data and records associated with the resource, collected under a permit, shall be deposited in an approved repository. The Secretary may enter into agreements with non-Federal repositories regarding the curation of these resources, data, and records.

   SEC. 9. PROHIBITED ACTS; PENALTIES.

    (a) IN GENERAL.--A person may not--

    (1) excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any paleontological resources located on Federal lands unless such activity is conducted in accordance with this Act;

    (2) exchange, transport, export, receive, or offer to exchange, transport, export, or receive any paleontological resource if such resource was excavated, removed, exchanged, transported, or received from Federal lands in violation of any provisions, rule,regulation, law, ordinance, or permit in effect under Federal law, including this Act; or

    (3) sell or purchase or offer to sell or purchase any paleontological resource if such resource was excavated, removed, sold, purchased, exchanged, transported, or received from Federal lands.

   (b) FALSE LABELING OFFENSES.--A person may not make or submit any false record, account, or label for, or any false identification of, any paleontological resource excavated or removed from Federal lands.

   (c) PENALITIES.--

    (1) IN GENERAL.--Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3), a person who knowingly or willingly violates or counsels, procures, solicits, or employs another person to violate subsection (a) or (b) shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

    (2) DAMAGE OVER $1,000.--If the sum of the scientific or fair market value of the paleontological resources involved and the cost of restoration and repair of such resources exceeds the sum of $1,000, such person shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a class E felony.

    (3) MULTIPLE OFFENSES.--In the case of a second or subsequent such violation, such person shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a class D felony.

   (d) GENERAL EXCEPTION.--Nothing in subsection (a) shall apply to any person with respect to any palentological resource which was in the lawful possession of such person prior to the date of the enactment of this Act.

   SEC. 10. CIVIL PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS OF REGULATIONS OR PERMIT CONDITIONS.

   (a) IN GENERAL.--

    (1) HEARING.--A person who violates any prohibition contained in an applicable regulation or permit issued under this Act may be assessed a penalty by the Secretary after the person is given notice and opportunity for a hearing with respect to the violation. Each violation shall be considered a separate offense for purposes of this section.

    (2) AMOUNT OF PENALTY.--The amount of such penalty assessed under paragraph (1) shall be determined under regulations promulgated pursuant to this Act, taking into account the following factors:

    (A) The scientific or fair market value, whichever is greater, of the paleontological resource involved.

    (B) The cost of response, restoration, and repair of the resource and the paleontolgical site involved.

    (C) Any other factors considered relevant by the Secretary assessing the penalty.

    (3) MULTIPLE OFFENSES.--In the case of a second or subsequent violation by the same person, the amount of a penalty assessed under paragraph (2) may be doubled.

    (4) LIMITAITON.--The amount of any penalty assessed under this subsection for any one violation shall not exceed an amount equal to double the cost of response, restoration, and repair of resources and paleontological site damage plus double the scientific or fair market value of resources destroyed or not recovered.

   (b) PETITION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW; COLLECTION OF UNPAID ASSESSMENTS.--Any person against whom an order is issued assessing a penalty under subsection (a) may file a petition for judicial review of the order with an appropriate Federal district court within the 30-day period beginning on the date the order making the assessment was issued. The court shall hear the action on the record made before the Secretary and shall sustain his action if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole.

   (b) HEARINGS.--Hearings held during proceedings instituted under subsection (a) shall be conducted in accordance with section 554 of title 5, United States Code.

   (c) USE OF RECOVERED AMOUNTS.--No penalties collected under this section shall be available to the Secretary and without further appropriation may be used only as follows:

    (1) To protect, restore, or repair the paleontological resources and sites which were the subject of the action, or to acquire sites with equivalent resources, and to protect, monitor, and study the resources and sites. Any acquisition shall be subject to any limitations contained in the organic legislation for such Federal lands.

    (2) To provide educational materials to the public about palenotological resources and sites.

    (3) To provide for the payment of Rewards as provided in section 11.

   SEC. 11. REWARDS FORFEITURE.

   (a) REWARDS.--The Secretary may pay from penalties collected under section 9 or 10 of this Act an amount equal to the lesser of one-half of the penalty or $500, to any person who furnishes information which leads to the finding of a civil violation, or the conviction of criminal violation, with respect to which the penalty was paid. If several persons provided the information, the amount shall be divided among the persons. No officer or employee of the United States or of any State or local government who furnishes information or renders service in the performance of his official duties shall be eligible for payment under this subsection.

   (b) FORFEITURE.--All paleontological resources with respect to which a violation under section 9 or 10 occurred and which are in the possession of any person, and all vehicles and equipment of any person that were used in connection with the violation, may be subject to forfeiture to the United States upon--

    (1) the person's conviction of the violation under section 9;

    (2) assessment of a civil penalty against any person under section 10 with respect to the violation; or

    (3) a determination by any court that the paleontological resources, vehicles, or equipment were involved in the violation.

   SEC. 12. CONFIDENTIALITY.

   Information concerning the nature and specific location of a paleontological resource the collection of which requires a permit under this Act or under any other provision of Federal law shall be withheld from the public under subchapter II of chapter 5 of title 5, United States Code, or under any other provision of law unless the responsible

[Page: S6711]
Secretary determines that disclosure would--

    (1) further the purposes of this Act;

    (2) not create risk of harm to or theft or destruction of the resource or the site containing the resource; and

    (3) be in accordance with other applicable laws.

   SEC. 13. REGULATIONS.

   As soon as practical after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue such regulations as are appropriate to carry out this Act, providing opportunities for public notice and comment.

   SEC. 14. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.

   Nothing in this Act shall be construed to--

    (1) invalidate, modify, or impose additional restrictions on any activities permitted under the general mining laws, or the mineral leasing, geothermal leasing, and mineral materials disposal laws;

    (2) apply to, or require a permit for, amateur collecting of a rock, mineral, or invertebrate or plant fossil that is not protected under this Act;

    (3) affect any lands other than Federal lands or affect the lawful recovery, collection, or sale of paleontological resources from lands other than Federal lands; or

    (4) alter or diminish the authority of a Federal agency under any other law to provide protection for paleontological resources on Federal lands in addition to the protection provided under this Act.

   SEC. 15. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

   There is authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this Act.

END