FOSSIL PROTECTION ESSENTIAL IN THE PEACE
Press Release
For Immediate Release
Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation
Box 1348 Tumbler Ridge, BC V0C 2W0
Contact: Dr Charles Helm, Vice President – 250 242 3984

February 4, 2005



Tumbler Ridge made the front page of the 26 January Vancouver Sun in an article entitled: “B.C.’s fossils need legal protection: scientists.” Tumbler Ridge palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley (Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre) were quoted on the virtual absence of legislation in the province (compared with Alberta) to protect this precious resource, along with Jim Haggart, Chairman of the BC Palaeontology Alliance, and Blair Lekstrom, MLA for Peace River South. The implications are particularly important in the Peace Region with its large vertebrate fossils, which can fetch a considerable price on E-bay if they fall into the wrong hands.

There have already been many cases of unscrupulous misuse of the region’s and the province’s fossil heritage. Attempts have been made to smuggle valuable fish fossils from Wapiti Lake out of Canada, fossils from the famous Burgess Shale (a World Heritage Site) have even ended up in the hands of the fossil trade, and one of Tumbler Ridge’s most important dinosaur footprints was removed in 2004 so that it could become an interesting dinner table (it was later recovered by the RCMP). To the south the location of a newly discovered dinosaur trackway was kept secret for several years while the discoverer tried to profit financially from it, and there are rumours of tour operators in the region who encourage foreign guests to look for, and leave with, important fossils that never get described by a scientist or appreciated by local residents and visitors.

It is against this background that the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation recently developed and passed its Palaeontology Code of Ethics, which sets a standard of responsible and appropriate actions that it expects from its members, and that it requests of all residents in the Peace Region. It also addresses the ethical issues for its members and board members that result from being a non-profit society with charitable status, that deals with fossils.

Welcome news in this context is that the B.C. government is now working on fossil protection, and it has already indicated that fossils will no longer be seen as minerals but rather as a heritage resource. Mr. Lekstrom, in tune as always with the needs of the region, is leading the political initiative to achieve this, and he plans to introduce a private member’s bill on the issue if necessary.

TUMBLER RIDGE MUSEUM FOUNDATION
PALAEONTOLOGY CODE OF ETHICS (ABRIDGED)

Introduction and premises:

The Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) was formed in 2001. Its goals include highlighting the unique palaeontological features of the area, maintaining a suitable repository, providing an organization through which those interested in palaeontology may meet and exchange information, stimulating research, and developing the highest possible standards of policies, procedures and ethics.

The Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (P.R.P.R.C.) was formed by the T.R.M.F. to promote the protection, discovery, collection, scientific study and display of regional and local palaeontological resources, and to develop the educational opportunities and partnerships that result.

The P.R.P.R.C.’s palaeontologists and scientific advisors have made it into a local and regional centre of excellence, following the highest possible scientific and ethical standards. Palaeontological study is in its infancy in the Tumbler Ridge area, with the probability of further significant new scientific discoveries. Significant damage can be done to sites and fossils by unsupervised collecting, or by making replicas of fossils including ichnofossils (trace fossils such as dinosaur footprints) regardless of the intentions behind these activities. It is often very difficult to immediately recognize the importance of a fossil specimen.

The fossil record of the region is a priceless resource which should be properly collected, accessioned, catalogued, researched and, where suitable, exhibited, for the benefit of all. This should be achieved through public institutions rather than through private collections.

The T.R.M.F. is a registered non-profit society and charitable organization, actively and continuously engaged in fundraising so as to maintain its programs. Its Souvenir Committee inventively develops and promotes sales items to help with fundraising.

Code of Ethics for T.R.M.F. Members:

The T.R.M.F. requires “right of first refusal” for local (Tumbler Ridge area) and regional (Peace Region) fossil specimens from its members. Information on new fossil discoveries is thus brought to the attention of the T.R.M.F. palaeontologists, who will judge if the specimen is important enough to be accessioned into the P.R.P.R.C. collections.

A new fossil or fossil site discovery is to be documented via photographs and precise map location, and brought to the attention of the T.R.M.F. palaeontologists, without being removed or disturbed in any way until the site is assessed by legitimate palaeontologists recognized by the T.R.M.F. The location of the find should be kept confidential.

Should the T.R.M.F. not wish to accession the specimen(s) for its collections, and the member wishes to maintain a private collection, the member must determine the status of the land, apply for appropriate permission as needed, and understand and comply with existing legislation and regulations pertaining to collection of fossils in British Columbia. The site should be disturbed as little as possible, and over-collection at any one site should be avoided. If requested by T.R.M.F., the member is to document the relevant geological and stratigraphical data, and catalogue the specimen appropriately. T.R.M.F. members wishing to maintain private palaeontological collections are encouraged to contribute a copy to the T.R.M.F. of a written list of specimens in their collections. Permission is to be obtained from the T.R.M.F. palaeontologists regarding the making of casts or replicas of fossils, including ichnofossils. Members with a serious interest in palaeontology may request to partake in a T.R.M.F. field expedition, or may request approval to collect specimens for the P.R.P.R.C.’s collections, but must agree to follow collection and documentation procedures and conditions which will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

No T.R.M.F. Board Member or Officer shall be remunerated for his/her palaeontologial services, or profit from entrepreneurial activities with a Tumbler Ridge palaeontological theme. T.R.M.F. members may engage in such entrepreneurial activities, but will respect copyright of items and designs developed by the T.R.M.F. Souvenir Committee, and not attempt to duplicate these items for profit.

Members who fail to adhere to these ethics may have their membership in the T.R.M.F. revoked.

Requests for non-members:

The T.R.M.F. requests that non-members comply with the same Code of Ethics in the Peace Region that pertains to members.

The T.R.M.F. requests that regional museums and other organizations both public and private support the work of the P.R.P.R.C. In turn the important fossil specimens of the region, once accessioned through the P.R.P.R.C., will be used to enhance local palaeontology exhibits throughout the region.

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