May 2000 Report of the Secretary of the Interior
In FY 1999, the Senate Appropriations Committee requested a report from the federal land managing agencies that would assess the need for a unified Federal policy on the collection, storage and preservation of fossils, as well as assess the need for standards that would maximize the availability of fossils for scientific research.
Congress was concerned that no unified policy existed regarding treatment of federal fossil resources; and that the lack of appropriate standards would lead to deterioration or loss of federal fossil specimens, and to a permanent loss of a valuable scientific resource.
The Secretary of the Interior was asked by the Committee to consult with the appropriate scientific, educational and commercial entities as well as other federal agencies in this assessment and to report back to Congress. These agencies included the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1999, a draft report was prepared and a public hearing was held. Public comments were also solicited on the draft report via notice in the Federal Register . The results of these scoping efforts were incorporated into the May 2000 Secretary's Report to Congress, " Assessment of Fossil Management on Federal and Indian Lands ."
As a result of this report, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology prepared draft legislation based on the Seven Principles in the report and modeled after the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 .
The Seven Principles to consider when taking further action are as follows:
1. Fossils from Federal lands are part of America's heritage
2. Most vertebrate fossils are rare
3. Some invertebrate and plant fossils are rare
4. Penalties for fossil theft should be strengthened
5. Effective stewardship requires accurate information
6. Federal fossil collections should be preserved and available for research and public education
7. Federal fossil management should emphasize opportunities for public involvement
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