Friday, January 22, 2010

Step on the Road to Regulations for the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (with a passing comment on a favorite typographical error)

The publication of regulations to implement the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act is officially now a priority for the U.S. Department of the Interior for 2010, and one of four regulatory annual priorities for the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of Interior. This was announced recently by Interior in its Statement of Regulatory Priorities (look at pages 64253-64254 in the Federal Register, December 7, 2009). [Note: Each instance of highlighted text in this post provides a link to the relevant material on the web.] Interior noted that “BLM and the Park Service are co-leads of a team with the Forest Service that will be drafting a paleontological resources rule. The rule would address the protection of paleontological resources and how we would permit the collection of these resources.” “Hobby collection of common invertebrate plants and fossils” is identified as one of the issues the rule will address. [Later edit: The BLM has a nice web page that summarizes some of its responsibilities regarding paleontological resources on federal land, and tracks the regulatory process for implementing the new legislation.]

This is good news and takes us a step closer to implementing the uniform policy for paleontological resources on federal land enacted in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11). Development and enactment of the Paleontological Resources Preservation legislation has been discussed in previous posts on this blog (see Labels in column at right).

How Long Will It Take?

This announcement is important because it signals that work on the regs has continued apace and, though, it might seem to be taking a long time, as these things go, it hasn’t. In a prior life, I was involved with analyzing federal legislation and regulations – sometimes regs took years to emerge and sometimes they never did. In this case, though, the Executive Branch presumably has no option because the new law requires the administering Secretaries to issue regulations with an opportunity for public comment.

When might the regs emerge? How about November, 2010, for proposed regs? That, at least, is the date given in RIN: 1004-AE13, one of entries on the Interior “rule list” published on the web. (RIN is the acronym for Regulation Identifier Number.)

Parting Comment on a Favorite Typographical Error (and Advice to Rock & Mineral Collectors, Chill)

Please, rock and mineral collectors don’t panic when you read the full text of the Federal Register announcement of the BLM priorities on pages 64253-64252. It mistakenly states that the rule being drafted would address, among other issues, the “causal [sic] collection of rocks and minerals” (emphasis added) It won’t. The new law states that none of its provisions can be construed to “apply to, or require a permit for, casual collecting of a rock, mineral, or invertebrate or plant fossil that is not protected under this subtitle” (Section 6311, emphasis added) “Causal collection” won’t be covered in the regs, either.

I once wrote a paper for a college course in which I analyzed the central thesis of the class text, constructing a detailed and well reasoned argument based on the author’s use of the word “causal” in a key passage, only to have the professor blithefully assert (I was not one of his favorites) that “clearly” I’d made a mountain out of a typographical error. After some debate, we agreed to disagree.

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