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National Park Service
US Department of the Interior

New Fossil Preservation Law

Capitan Reef at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas.
Paleontological resources (fossils) have been documented in over 260 NPS units, including this ancient coral reef at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas. Photo by NPS.

On March 30, 2009, President Obama approved H.R. 146, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, as Public Law 111-11. Title VI, Subtitle D of the act directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to implement a comprehensive paleontological resource management program on federal lands. The requirements in Subtitle D will provide increased protection, enhanced management tools, and greater scientific and public understanding of NPS fossil resources.

The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA) requires the agencies to 1) promulgate regulations as soon as practical; 2) develop plans for fossil inventories, monitoring, and scientific and educational use; 3) manage and protect paleontological resources on Federal land using scientific principles and expertise; 4) establish a program to increase public awareness about the significance of paleontological resources; 5) allow casual collection of common invertebrate and plant fossils on BLM, Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation lands where consistent with the laws governing those lands; 6) manage fossil collection via specific permitting requirements; 7) curate collected fossils in accordance with the Act's requirements; 8) implement the Act's criminal and civil enforcement, penalty, reward and forfeiture provisions; and 9) protect information about the nature and specific location of fossils where warranted. The Act authorizes appropriations necessary to carry out these requirements.
see PRPA text...

A coordinated federal approach is planned for implementing many of the Act's provisions, including the development of regulations. The NPS lead office in the implementation of the Act will be the Geologic Resources Division (GRD). GRD will work closely with parks and regions throughout this process.

Based on available data, 260 units are known to contain fossil resources either in-situ, in museum collections, and/or in a cultural context. This number is likely to increase as future inventories are completed. NPS museum collections contain more than 571,000 cataloged paleontological specimens.

Last updated: April 24, 2015