The Antiquities

The basic law governing collecting on federally owned lands is the Antiquities Act of 1 9 0 6 (U.S. Code Sec. 34 Statute L-225). This provides that permits to examine ruins, excavate archeological sights, and to collect objects of antiquity or of historical or scientific interest on lands under their jurisdiction may be granted by the secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, or the Army to institutions they deem properly qualified, provided that these activities are for the benefit of reputable museums, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions and that the gatherings will be permanently preserved in public museums. The penalty for violation is a $50 0 fine or 90 days in prison.

The thought behind the law is that the federal government has the responsibility to protect antiquities that are the property of all the people, and the act has been interpreted to include vertebrate paleontological remains as antiquities. Fossils have rarely been the subject of litigation, but in a South Carolina case, in an application for a mining claim filed to protect collecting on a fossil site, a fossil bone was refused classification as a mineral.

In general, the federal antiquities law has not been used to restrain invertebrate fossil collectors. In 19 6 6, the federal government by a regulation of the Department of the Interior set a daily bag limit of 25 pounds plus one large single piece on noncommercial collectors of fossil wood and an annual limit of 2 5 0 pounds a person. The regulation forbids commercial collecting or the use of power tools, such as bulldozers, to unearth the wood. This regulation does not apply to privately owned land, only to federal lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.

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