The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act
is Now Public Law
To the Members of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology:
On March 25, 2009 the House of Representatives passed a Public Lands Bill that contained the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA) by a vote of 285 – 140. The bill has been signed by the president and is now public law.
Although the information has always been readily available on the SVP website, we offer this reminder of what the PRPA actually does
The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act codifies the existing practice of requiring that vertebrate fossils and other rare and scientifically significant fossils be collected only by qualified researchers who obtain a permit. Permittees must agree to deposit the fossils in public institutions, which will ensure their future availability to researchers and the public. The PRPA strengthens penalties and acts as a deterrent for illegal collecting activity.
The PRPA greatly benefits amateur paleontologists. For instance, the BLM and Forest Service have been allowing casual collecting of common plant and invertebrate fossils for many years, but without specific statutory authority from Congress. This activity could have been taken away at any time. However, the PRPA ensures amateurs can continue to pursue their hobby on BLM and Forest Service lands. The Savings Provision specifies that, “nothing contained in the Act shall apply to, or require a permit for, casual collecting of a rock, mineral or invertebrate or plant fossil that is not protected under this Act.” (emphasis by editor).
Over the years there has been an abundance of misinformation regarding the PRPA. Please note that the PRPA DOES NOT:
1. Affect Private lands or Indian lands in any way.
2. Prosecute anyone for misidentifying a fossil unless that misidentification is
made in association with a knowing criminal violation of the PRPA.
3. Interfere with rock collecting.
4. Restrict access to those who do not have a Ph.D.
5. Interfere with mining on federal land.
6. Create restrictions for public lands access.
In the days ahead, SVP’s Government Affairs Committee will offer any expertise that is required by federal agencies in regard to regulations and implementation of the PRPA. We will also take a look at new initiatives and opportunities that will greatly benefit the SVP and the science of vertebrate paleontology.
This has been a very long and arduous process that has been under consideration for almost 18 years. It is hard to imagine how many members of the Society, Congressional staffers, associated societies, and friends that have contributed to the success and passage of the PRPA. We want to thank everyone who helped in a small and large way, because without your determination and support, passage of the PRPA would not have been possible.
The SVP Government Affairs Committee
This letter was sent to members of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and provides a useful summary of the act and how it effects rockhounding. - editor