Sorry for the disappearing act. I have been pretty busy with work this week. A story in my local news paper is spreading some incorrect information that I wanted to point out really fast. The story that came out on Monday is entitled "Paleontology provisions threaten bill that includes Dominguez conservation area" - big mean paleontology is picking on the poor conservation area eh? No. Not really. The story is referring to S. 22, Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009; Title IV, Subtitle D - Paleontological Resources Preservation, Sec. 6301 - 6312. The author of the story states "Salazar [Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo, the brother of our new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar] said language restricting the recovery of arrowheads, fossils and other historical materials from public lands has deeply divided the House committee entrusted with approving the public-lands bill....He said unless the House can muster up a supermajority to suspend House rules and remove the language, the bill’s passage could be delayed or the entire bill could be left in limbo.
“It could be put on the back burner for who knows how long,” Salazar said....The provisions would require a permit to remove any fossils from public lands or Indian reservations and could, Salazar said, bar members of the public from searching for arrowheads or other items."
This is where I get upset. Obviously John Salazar has either a) not read the legislation or b) does not understand the difference between fossils and arrowheads, paleontology and archaeology. Either way, it is just flat out NOT GOOD!! Contrary to what is implied in the article, "arrowheads" and "historical materials" are not mentioned anywhere in the paleo bill. Also, permits will not be required to collect fossils on Indian lands by this act; in fact, Indian lands are specifically exempt from the act. Despite what the article states, permits are already required to remove significant fossils and the bill calls for codification of existing rules that allow for hobby collection of fossils.
It would be nice if the author of the article first read the legislation and pointed out these things himself. Just as much as it would have been nice if Rep. Salazar had read it (or understood it)….or if the editor of the paper had checked the facts of the story. Is this to much to ask??
So, instead of just bitching about this here, I decided to try and do something. I wrote the author and pointed out the mistakes/misinformation/misrepresentations, sent him a copy of the legislation, and suggested several paleontologist who are very knowledgeable about the bill that he could speak to if he would like to pursue the story. His response was “Thanks” and a ‘my bad’ on the “…Indians lands provision in the bill.” I appreciate his acknowledgment of my letter. I hope he will take the time to address these issues in print. I will also be sending a letter to the editor (since my phone call was not returned). If you would like to do the same, you can find his contact information here. [edit - the managing editor contacted me this morning (Wednesday) and we had a nice conversation about the bill, the problems with the story, ect.. and she said they would make corrections]
A lot of hard work has gone into getting this bill where it is now. It would be sad to see bad press and misinterpretations of the facts keep this bill from passing though the House. I really want to encourage anyone interested in paleo to please read this bill!! If you can not reach it at this link, please let me know and I will email a PDF of the information to you. It will be so much better if we are all informed about the facts and can tell others the details.
I hope the work of anti-paleo-bill lobbyist does not pay off. My *sources* tell me that there is a large group of paleontology enthusiast and paleontologist who (for reasons incomprehensible to me) want to keep this bill from passing. As far as I can tell from public comments, it has to do with a lack of understanding for what the bill is going to do [see my previous post on this for the details]. Lets hope that having money for heavy duty lobbying also does not derail this bill. I encourage you to write your congressperson and ask them to support this bill!
Thanks for reading!
© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster