The proposed regulation defines paleontological resources as “any fossilized remains, traces, or imprints of organisms preserved in or on the Earth’s crust.” There are some exceptions to this definition, such as fossils that are also archaeological resources or cultural items, which will continue to be managed under other laws and regulations.
Paleontological resources that are collected under a permit must be preserved and remain available to be studied after being collected. The proposed rule requires the resources be curated at an approved repository, and provides a consistent approach for how collected fossil specimens will be stored, accessed and managed. In another effort to protect these valuable and vulnerable resources, the proposed rule prohibits bureaus from releasing specific locality information to prevent the risk of theft or vandalism to the resource.
The Act directs the BLM and Reclamation to allow the casual collecting of common invertebrate and plant fossils without a permit. Under the proposed rule, the public can continue to collect a reasonable amount of common invertebrate and plant fossils, such as trilobites and leaf impressions, for noncommercial purposes without a permit on most public land managed by the BLM.
In areas administered by Reclamation, the collection of any fossil material is currently prohibited by 43 CFR 423, Public Conduct on Bureau of Reclamation Facilities, Lands, and Waterbodies. However, the new rule will now allow Reclamation to establish special use areas for the purpose of casual collecting. Casual collection will continue to be prohibited on lands managed by the NPS and the FWS.