Palaeontological site conservation and the law in Britain - NMS Research Repository
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Journal article

Palaeontological site conservation and the law in Britain



The legal situation regarding palaeontological site conservation in Britain is unclear. There is no modern review of the law. Five main areas of concern are identified. Most exsisting laws do not specifically consider the needs of palaeontological conservation. Legislation empowers the Nature Conservancy Council upon policy decisions. The NCC is primarily concerned with nationally important sites, and responsibility for recording other sites therefore falls upon voluntary National Scheme for Geological Site Documentation. Local authorities have potentially useful powers. Site occupiers are disadvantaged by the damage caused by, and to some extent the liability due to visitiors, but they can forbid access to almost all sites on private land. The ownership of in situ fossils may be presumed to go with the mineral rights in the land, and collecting them without permission may involve criminal damage and theft. Loose fossils may in some cases be legally collected without express permission. If the landowner has not exerted rights of controil of access or ownership. This is potentially important for coastal exposures. The compulsary public ownership of fossils is not likely to be a successful strategy in geological conservation. Resources are on the whole better spent in education and popularization than on compulsion.


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  • Resource type

    Journal article

  • Institution
    • National Museums Scotland

  • Journal title
    • Special Papers in Palaeontology

  • Issue
    • 40

  • Pagination
    • 21-39

  • Publisher
    • The Palaeontological Association

  • ISSN
    • 0038-6804

  • Official URL
  • Library of Congress Classification
    • QE

  • Additional information
    • The use and conservation of Palaeontological sites paper presented at meeting of Geological Society, the Palaeontological Association, and the Geological Curator's Group 1-2 October 1987