Magazine article Insight on the News

Dinosaur Digs Best Steer Clear of Federal Land. (Nation in Brief)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Dinosaur Digs Best Steer Clear of Federal Land. (Nation in Brief)

Article excerpt

The vast land holdings of government are a treasure trove of various valuable items and substances that used to be fair game for prospectors, relic hunters, fossil collectors and others who enjoy getting out and plundering around in the backcountry. The operative phrase in most cases was "finders, keepers." Today, though, collecting so much as a leaf or a pebble on those lands can bring on official wrath and public scorn. Walking off with more serious "finds" such as relics or fossils can result in jail time, fines or both.

But shouldn't the public be able to pillage around on public land? No, officials say, because the land is held in common. And as anyone familiar with common-ism knows, what belongs to everybody doesn't really belong to anybody, although the officials in charge and their designated favorites darn well may act like owners.

Today's emphasis on the criminal aspects of removing materials from public lands didn't come about because little Johnny picked up the odd arrowhead or fossilized trilobite. …

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