When the movie, Jurassic Park came out in 1993, dinosaur pandemonium ensued and people flocked to the Utah hills, looking for dinosaur fossils. In fact, Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park, was entreated to make a series of public service announcements asking people not to go hunting for dinosaur bones, so that they would not inadvertently damage or destroy important, as yet unearthed fossils.
The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA) was passed in 2009 to regulate the collection of fossilized resources on federal lands, so that information pertaining to the history of the earth could be preserved. Paleontological resources include fossilized remains, traces, or imprints of organisms preserved in or on the earth’s crust. The new law directed two government departments—Agriculture and Interior—to implement comprehensive management programs for paleontological resources “as soon as is practical.” The Department of Agriculture published its plan in 2015, and the Department of Interior’s plan was published in 2016. Both plans specify the rules for managing, collecting, and curating paleontological remains found on federal lands. PRPA made it illegal to collect, damage, deface, or sell such items, and instituted civil and criminal penalties for doing so.
The Department of Homeland Security has waived the PRPA to expedite the building of a border wall (click here for a list of all 48 federal laws that have been waived). That means that there is no longer any regulation about collecting, damaging, or selling paleontological specimens found near the border wall. Workers constructing the wall need not concern themselves with fossils they unearth in the process of construction; in fact, such fossils can be destroyed without penalty or consequence, which means that parts of our historical record, as yet unearthed, may never be discovered.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members) and let them know that you oppose waiving The Paleontological Resources and Preservation Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.