The Democrats are trying to pass a public lands bill here. Besides, fossil enthusiasts are too small a group to be worth any consideration past the minimum. From CQ (no link, sorry):
A public lands bill on its way to the House floor is meeting resistance from an unlikely constituency: amateur fossil hunters.
The bill (S 22), which encompasses dozens of measures to expand national park and wilderness areas, includes language that would impose criminal and civil penalties on people who take fossils from federal lands. But Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, opposes the provision so much that he is rallying opposition to the bill.
“I’m only asking that this section be stripped out,” said Culberson, who is concerned about its impact on casual collectors. Culberson himself is an amateur fossil hound who once discovered a wolf jaw from the Ice Age. “They’re going to destroy the hobby of fossil collecting,” he said.
The pushback is that there are existing laws in place to protect against this… which is nice, if you like fossils of invertebrates and plants. Just don’t bring out any fossils of reptiles, fishes, mammals… unless you feel like going to jail for up to five years. And they’ll take your car, too. All of which is very nice when you’re trying to stop people “poaching” fossils – don’t laugh, it’s been a business in the West for centuries: I understand that The Gilded Dinosaur is a good place to start on the topic – but not so nice when people who the law isn’t meant for get caught up in it, too. Which is pretty much the only thing that John Culberson is agitated about, here; unfortunately, the Democrats would apparently rather have to fix a problem than prevent it.
Hey, if the Democrats don’t like me being hard-nosed about judging their actions and motivations, then maybe the Democrats shouldn’t have recently put the entire thrift store industry at risk because they’re incapable of drafting a clean consumer-protection bill. After that little exercise in applied incompetence, I’m not particularly sanguine that some law-enforcement official on the local level isn’t going to decide that the law really does expect him to bring in that Boy Scout Troop working on their Archeology merit badges without Ken Salazar’s explicit permission.
I’m weird that way.
PS: The guy who doesn’t care overmuch about encouraging the next generation of paleontologists is one Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D, WV-03), National Resources Chair. Based on his political backstory, I have to wonder whether his stance against the collection of fossils is merely a matter of guaranteeing his own personal safety…
Crossposted at Moe Lane.