The Law of Trespass

The fundamental law regulating any outdoor activity such as fossil collecting is the common law of trespass. Trespass was originally a wrong committed with force and violence against a person or property, but in one form of the old writs it became trespass or breach of the close, which meant unlawful entry on another person's property. Thus permission to enter and further permission to camp, excavate, etc., should be obtained. Inasmuch as an owner can be held responsible for injury to a person given permission to enter his land, the owner may require you to sign a waiver to relieve him of this responsibility. This is generally not true if he charges a fee.

Privately owned land is protected against trespass whether or not it is enclosed or cultivated. As a California official said, rural residents tend to be very conservative about property rights, but most of them are reasonable people, and, if the visitor is courteous, considerate, and asks permission to collect, he will be favorably received. "Always obtain permission before entering private property and never leave a mess behind," was his advice.

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