Fossil Protection Essential in the Peace


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.