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2008-10-12 – British Columbia, Canada: danneggiato sito dell’Eocene (fossil site damaged)

Fossil hunters run amok and the B.C. government sits idle

Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun

Published: Friday, October 10, 2008

A fossil bed of global importance is being irreparably damaged by commercial fossil hunters operating with provincial government approval, say leading scientists.

And scientists’ letters to a series of cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats show that although the province is finally seeking someone to monitor the site, it has been aware of the concerns for almost a decade.

The operations take place under provincial regulations.

One letter likened what’s been going on to “wrapping fish in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

The McAbee site between Kamloops and Cache Creek is a 51-million-year-old lake bed that yields exquisitely preserved fossils from the early Eocene epoch. Scientists say it holds answers critical to our present-day understanding of how plants and animals adapt to rapid climate change.

The Eocene is known for its diversity of large and exotic mammals, among them a carnivorous ungulate. The scientific value of the McAbee site, however, is its vast array of lesser-known plant, insect, fish and bird species that flourished when the world was much warmer and palms grew in what’s now Alaska.

Tree leaves, flowers and pollen fell into the water, sank into the mud along with now-extinct insect and fish species and, layer by layer over millions of years, created a stunning fossilized record of a lost world that may hold information crucial to survival in ours.

It’s the diversity of the site that permits scientists to collect large assemblages of fossil specimens preserved in vertical layers of shale — the site’s “stratigraphy” — and enables them to study their evolution over long periods of time.

The Eocene is vital for scientific study because it was in this time that the evolutionary ancestors of many modern animals, insects and plants first appeared.

But five of Canada’s leading paleontologists have written to the provincial government protesting that the stratigraphic integrity of the site is being destroyed by the use of heavy equipment in the hunt for individual specimens prized for commercial sale.

“We are writing to you to express our concern that an important British Columbia heritage site is currently being dismantled and sold to the highest bidder,” the scientists said in a March 2, 2007 letter to Charlie Wyse, the Liberal MLA for Cariboo South.

“This important fossil locality is currently under mineral claim by fossil dealers, has been extensively worked, and is being rapidly destroyed.”

The letter, one of a number going back as far as 2002, advised the province that individual fossil specimens from the McAbee site were for sale on the Internet.

The letter was signed by James Haggart, chair of the B.C. Paleontological Alliance, Rolf Mathewes of Simon Fraser University, James Basinger at the University of Saskatchewan, David Greenwood at Brandon University and Bruce Archibald, a PhD candidate at Harvard University.

Archibald, now a post-doctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University, has done extensive research on the McAbee fossils.

He wrote again on Sept. 11, 2008, this time to Stan Hagen, minister of agriculture and lands, to inform the government that he had just visited the McAbee site.

“I was absolutely shocked to see the amount of new destruction present,” Archibald wrote. “In fact, the richest beds containing the most finely preserved and most diverse fossils are now completely destroyed, or very nearly so. It is quite clear that degradation of the site has greatly accelerated since I visited it last year before the claimholders signed the current agreement with your ministry supposedly defining their appropriate stewardship of the site.”

shume@islandnet.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

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Additional info:

Site description: http://www.fossilmuseum.net/Fossil_Sites/mcabee.htm

Scientific info: by Heidi Henderson blog

Fossil tour: http://www.dll-fossils.com/

Fossils for sale: http://www.fossilscapes.com/plants/plantfossils1.htm

ottobre 12, 2008 - Posted by | 6 Eocene, America Northern, Commercio illegale, P - Geositi, P - Paleobotanica, Paleontology / Paleontologia | , , , , , , , ,

1 commento »

  1. […] vedi pure: 2008-10-12 – British Columbia, Canada: danneggiato sito dell’Eocene (fossil site damaged) […]

    Pingback di 2008-10-14 - Canada: memorandum per proteggere i “McAbee fossil beds” « PaleonewsITA | ottobre 24, 2008


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