Heritage Dinosaurs?

Closeup of the skull and teeth of Vancouver Island's Puntledge River elasmosaur. Source: BCfossils.ca

Only occasionally does this space turn its eye to fossils, but there’s been quite a bit of press this last week about the perceived lack of protection of fossil sites in British Columbia, some of which are alleged to be ground up for “kitty litter” (archive, etc).  In that CBC report the Minister of Agriculture and Lands lists a whole variety of ways that fossil sites are, indeed, protected, in response to the general position of the paleontologists that there was no such legal protection. I believe this page summarizes the government’s position (which does indeed explicitly allow commercial exploitation in principle, though they are not currently taking kitty litter applications.  The page is a virtual museum of weasel words and contradictory information and frankly, makes almost no coherent sense).

Anyhow,  the most direct and obvious way that such sites are, in my opinion, already protected, or the way they could be: by the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA).


Yo Mammonite Fossil. Source: BCFossils.ca


My support for this contention is threefold [edit: but see comment by APM below for a different and partially corrective view]:

1.  Several dinosaur sites are already recorded with Borden numbers (HgRr-2 and HhRs-1, at least, plus the Puntledge river site).  At least some of these are specifically designated by Ministerial order under Section 9 of the HCA – this is the case for some of the most impressive trackways in the Peace River. This results from the government specifically adding a fossil site to the Heritage Register.  The Peace River examples have long been held to be one of the odd cases on the register – I don’t recall the others offhand but there were some fairly unusual things given Borden numbers over the years.

2.  Within the last five years the Archaeology Branch has, on at least two occasions, issued Inspection Permits under the auspices of the Heritage Conservation Act to conduct solely palaeontological survey and impact assessment, in this case with reference to the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline Project in northern B.C.  This arguably constitutes a de facto recognition that such sites are covered by the provisions of the HCA, including protection – or else why issue a permit? Indeed, the resultant permit report requires that the Archaeology Branch be closely involved in any impact assessments on fossils resulting from the pipeline (see excerpt below).  The language used is essentially indistinguishable from archaeological monitoring protocols.

3. The language of the Act is very simple and explicit.  The “Heritage” value that is being “Conserved” by the act is defined in Section 1 as “the historical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific or educational worth or usefulness of a site or object”, and the language of Section 13 certainly allows for the inclusion of protection for fossil sites, and arguably now requires it.   Indeed, the government agrees that, “Fossils qualify under the Heritage Conservation Act as items having “heritage value” because of their scientific and educational worth.”  The AGF page asserts that they are only protected under the HCA if designated under Section 9, but unless they have a legal argument I would say this is based on past practice not on legal necessity.

Thus, since the language of the Act encompasses fossils; since the Archaeology Branch has issued permits to investigate fossils; and since the Archaeology Branch already keeps at least some fossil sites on its Heritage Register, there would appear to be a recognition that fossil sites are heritage sites in the legal sense of the HCA.


Museum staff work on fossil beds near Tumbler Ridge. Source: Vancouver Sun.


So, I am obviously not a lawyer but it does seem to me that armed with Points 1 to 3 I could put up a pretty good case that precedents had been set, and that the precedents were consistent with the intention and purpose of the act as understood through the language of its definitions.  Further, as with archaeological sites, perhaps they must be protected whether recorded or not, and regardless of their intrinsic significance. (The simplest flake or cache pit is afforded the same protection under the law as the most complex site, although permits to seriously alter them may be easier to come by!) [edit: again, see comments below]

The implication of that, one would think, would be that palaeontological impact assessments should be routine in the face of proposed development, at least where the geology indicates the potential for fossils.  And perhaps they do: certainly the Enbridge case was triggered by something.  The thing is, the HCA is a powerful law, on paper at least, and the extent and degree of protection it affords reads as being very strong.  I would be interested in hearing an argument though as to why all fossil sites in BC are not protected by the HCA.  Has there been a specific exclusion under Section 37 or Section 13(3)a, for example?  While the Archaeology Branch helpfully defines “Archaeological Resources“, these are actually only a subset of the Heritage Values which are the subject of the HCA.  And while the AGF page cited above notes that “Where fossils are found on other Crown land the applicable authority is the Land Act.” I am honestly unclear on what basis this statement is founded and if indeed that such a deferral away from the HCA would hold up if challenged.

Anyway, not super interesting to most readers of this blog, but the Heritage Conservation Act may currently be providing the only legal protection for these sites.  If I was a concerned paleontologist, I would simply submit a site form for fossil sites of outstanding significance and see what happens. Karst caves full of bear bones would be one obvious starting point, heh.  The flip side is, of course, the fossil guys would likely need permits to conduct their field research!

I’m not, by the way, arguing it would be the most desirable thing to have the HCA stretch to fossils – it would be better for fossils to have their own explicit protection. But it is better they be protected by the HCA than by the vague and insincere finger waving of the AGF.

And like I’ve said, I’m no lawyer, but I am a world class cynic.

And, even accepting the government’s position then, if they wanted, they could designate any fossil site they wanted, and do it immediately, unambiguously affording that site the full protection of the HCA.

If they wanted.

By the way, if you are interested in fossils, then the BC Palaeontological Alliance looks like a good outfit.  If not protected by the Heritage Conservation Act then it is essential that very strong and unambiguous legal protection be extended to at least the cream of BC’s fossil heritage.


Gingko Leaf Fossil. Source: dll-fossils.com


This is the excerpt from the Enbridge Report noted above, emphasis added:

If fossils are encountered, the monitor determines the heritage value of the material.  Fossil with low value are recorded and photographed. Select low value fossils may be  collected if they can provide scientific information. For fossils determined to be of  moderate value, representative collections are made. Discovery of low and moderate  value fossils slows excavation but does not stop construction.

When fossils of high heritage value, such as dinosaur bones, are encountered, excavations  are temporarily stopped. The monitor then reports the find to, and consults with, the  Archaeology Branch of the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts. With an onsite palaeontological monitor, construction will only stop if fossils with high heritage value  are encountered and the monitor will provide information regarding site dispensation to  the operators and the proponent. The Archaeology Branch will determine the next step  after construction is stopped. The monitor might be directed to collect any exposed  material, or to make a shallow excavation adjacent to the find to determine the extent of  the fossiliferous horizon. In rare cases, a full palaeontological excavation will be required  and construction in the vicinity of the fossiliferous material will cease until appropriate  mitigation as been completed.

14 responses to “Heritage Dinosaurs?

  1. Paleontological sites are assessed on big projects because of requirements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to assess effects to such sites. They are bundled with other heritage sites in that process and thus sometimes come into the Archaeology Branch as part of a Heritage Impact Assessment, which often includes other aspects of heritage not protected under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA).

    The paleontological work done for Enbridge was not done under permit, though it was submitted as part of the assessment process and the stand alone report even (incorrectly) included the archaeological impact assessment permit numbers (probably because it came from an Alberta consultant who was following that province’s processes). Because the permitted work for one year of the archaeological impact assessment ended up being reported under a subsequent permit. The paleontological report had been submitted as if it were part of the permitted work and thus it was filed in the on-line library with the permit from the first year which had a gap in the database just waiting for a report to be attached.

    Paleontological work has occasionally been subject to HCA permits when that work might alter a site that is protected under s.13 of the HCA (might damage an archaeological site while digging the paleontological site, or, for instance, setting up a field camp near the dig). Permits are also needed for any Provincial heritage site that was Designated under previous versions of the Act (this includes also some non-archaeological cultural sites that are not protected automatically by the HCA such as a Coyote transformer stone in the Okanagan that was Designated 75 or 80 years ago under a very early version of the HCA).

    There is no explicit protection in the HCA for paleontological sites. Most of what the act protects is defined in s.13 heritage protections section, not in the “definitions” sections you have cited. S.13 has explicit protections for classes of archaeological and historical sites and for Designated Provincial heritage sites and Provincial heritage objects (Designated by Order in Council). There are no explicit protections for paleontological sites, nor associated requirements for permits for sites that are not protected.

    The paleontological sites that have been Designated by Order In Council as Provincial heritage sites under the HCA are the ones you refer to by Borden number. They were all done under the previous version of the HCA. That version included explicit reference to paleontological sites. When the new Act was introduced in 1994 such references were removed. It is my understanding that paleontological sites were deliberately omitted with the intention of introducing separate legislation to protect them.

    I think it is pretty clear that the current HCA was not intended to extend to paleontological sites.
    As noted above, it drops reference to such sites that were contained in the previous version of the Act.
    It could be tempting to stretch the definitions of Heritage Site (“land, including land covered by water, that has heritage value to British Columbia, a community or an aboriginal people”) and Heritage Value (“historical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific or educational worth or usefulness of a site or object”) to include paleontological sites and thus allow such places to be Designated by Order in Council as Provincial heritage sites. However, when you look at the rest of the act, this is not really supported.
    The emphasis in the above definitions is clearly on cultural heritage, the definition of Heritage Object (a term used jointly with Heritage Site where the act discussions protections, as well as in definition cited above for heritage value) is for “personal property”, which fossils in the ground are/were not.
    When heritage value is referenced in the protections section, the words “historical value” and “archaeological value” are used (without definition!), presumably as a proxy for what is meant by heritage value.
    Where heritage inspections or investigations that involve excavation are to take place, a permit is needed for “archaeological research” (not defined) or for “searching for artifacts of aboriginal origin” (s14.1).
    Everything else that is dealt with explicitly in the Act is cultural heritage.

    Obviously paleontological sites are worthy of protection. I think most people would agree that legal protections are best be achieved through unambiguous statutes or associated regulations. In the current situation protections are being inferred from tools such as the Land Act, the HCA, or other statutes that clearly were not originally intended for that purpose.


  2. Thanks for those excellent points, APM. I’ll edit the page slightly directing readers’ attention to your comment so they don’t miss it since it is corrective – thanks.

    Regarding Enbridge, it is certainly confusing to see such a document in the ministerial library clearly labelled as a permit report – it might have been a good idea to ask for an edited version on that one since, as I say, this is the kind of thing of which legal objections are made.

    When heritage value is referenced in the protections section, the words “historical value” and “archaeological value” are used (without definition!), presumably as a proxy for what is meant by heritage value.

    That’s the kind of potential loophole I am talking about, I guess.

    Re: the Act, I get that the definitions are, well, definitions, and the subset of all those things defined with Heritage Value which are explicitly protected by the Act are enumerated in Section 13. In other words, the Act recognizes a large range of “land” with Heritage Value, and then says, this list (Section 13) are those which are protected (implicitly adding, protected at this time and explicitly adding plus those specific ones the Lieutenant Governor in Council (i.e. the gov’t) decides to add by specific designation. In other words, the Act acknowledges a lot of things with recognized Heritage Value, that is not protecting! I think intent can be read from the definitions, the “purpose”, as well as the current section 13, and probably from Hansard as well, if anyone was keen enough to go back to the debates. (I doubt the Honourable members discuss dinosaurs but you never know, some of them were fossils themselves). I believe that in general parliamentary intent can or should be invoked to support interpretations of the law.

    Anyway, with your comments in mind re: the differing legislations over time, yes it would be probably impossible to argue implicit protection is already afforded by precedent under S.13.

    Even with the changed language from version to version (thanks for that, by the way) the “LG in Council” very clearly has the ability to Designate a palaeontological site under the Act. I think that power should be exercised until such time as the Fossils Act appears, and perhaps past that time if the Fossils Act is not, as I would anticipate, as stringent as the HCA. That is, some Fossil sites would be just Fossil Sites, while others, the most exceptional, would also be Heritage Sites.

    By the way, my understanding is the phrase “Lieutenant Governor in Council” essentially means that designation is done by an Order in Council (a very specific, narrow piece of legislation, declared by the sitting Government, not debated in the Legislature). Is that right? Basically, the Cabinet makes a decision and issues an order via narrow legislation that the “Fossil Max” site should be designated, based on a recommendation from a third party, perhaps a Branch of the Government.

    It’s also worth noting that re: Coyote Rocks, etc., that it seems to me that First Nations can initiate protection for these sensu strictu non-archaeological features to be protected under Section 4 of the HCA; they don’t need to do it through Section 9.

    Shorter Version: the Act is the Act; much of how it is implemented is done procedurally based on pragmatics and legal advice; lawyers give advice while judges make decisions; it seems to me it’s not a watertight case that the Act does not apply to fossils; but anyway it would be better to have a Fossil Conservation Act;


  3. I agree that the paleontology document in the branch’s on-line library could be better labeled, and the associated bibliography could be more pertinent to the situation as well. Perhaps someone at the branch will fix it.

    You are right about Orders-in-Council – they go through Cabinet to the LG for approval. I understand that preparing the documentation for OIC’s is a big job for civil servants responsible for the file. Which does lead to the point that the Branch is already heavily loaded, and adding fossils to their workload is unlikely to be received very well, or to be done with appropriate attention to detail due both to workload and lack of expertise (unless a person was hired for that purpose). Since government is getting smaller right now, it drifts toward the realm of a hopeless idea (for the foreseeable future).

    HCA S.4 agreements have not been made, so far. Neither have regulations, which it looks like the HCA ( S.13.2.f and S.13.3) could bring in (via OIC) to define more things into protection than are automatically protected. However, if paleontology is not really the Act’s purpose, then it would be better done a different way. Also, anything that is added to an HCA protected status (by Designation or regulation) that is not automatically protected is subject to compensation – the province could be liable to any effected owners of land or other tenure holders of some kind (leaseholders, mineral claims, etc). Costs of this kind are likely to be an obstacle to adding protections via the HCA.

    However, new legislation could have a clause removing the compensation from things automatically protected (like is found in S.11.9 of HCA), so a new fossil protection act would be a better route to go than protection via regulation or designation if the province anticipated protecting tenured fossil sites.

    An interesting side note to the above with respect to regulations. The new Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act which I don’t think is fully in effect yet (waiting for LG signature?), will modify s.7 of the HCA which is currently reads:
    “Provincial heritage policies
    7 The minister may, with the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, establish policies and standards for the identification, conservation, management and disposition of any heritage site or heritage object owned or managed by the government.”

    The bill for the Haida legislation includes:

    “Heritage sites
    7 (1) In this section, “conservation” and “heritage site” have the same meanings as in section 1 of the Heritage Conservation Act.
    (2) Despite section 7 (1) of the Heritage Conservation Act, with the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the council may establish policies and standards for the identification and conservation of heritage sites within the management area.” (section numbers in this quote relate to the HGRA, not the HCA).

    The HGRA will add to s.7 of the HCA the following:
    “(2) Despite subsection (1), policies and standards established by the Haida Gwaii Management Council under section 7 (2) of the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act for the identification and conservation of heritage sites within the management area, as defined in section 1 (1) of that Act, must be given effect in that management area as if they were policies and standards established under subsection (1) of this section.”

    Thus, it is conceivable that the Haida will interpret s.1.1 definitions in the broad way that you have, and propose standards that apply to, for instance, the karst caves that hold paleontological (heritage) values but which might not have an archaeological component (these sites are known to be of considerable interest to the Haida, thanks to the work of yourself and Daryl Fedje and others). I am not really sure if the new clauses would allow the Haida to define protections for places that are currently not defined as protected. Anyway, you can read more about the proposed legislation here:


    You should search Hansard, I am sure that there are discussions on the paleontology topic.

    BTW, in quoting and adding your emphasis to the paleontology report in the original blog post above you make the common mistake of believing what you read in a consultant’s report recommendations. When a permit is issued it comes with a cover letter that says that issuing the permit does not mean the branch will accept recommendations in the report. They are, after all only, recommendations. The branch frequently revises recommendations from such reports – they review the permit report and provide the proponent with a requirements letter (note that the report you cite would not be subject to this process as it is not a permit report). Branch requirements can differ markedly from the consultant recommendations. Sometimes they differ by requiring more work than the consultant thinks is necessary, sometimes less, but quite often something very similar as many consultants have learned over the years what will fit with the branch’s perspective, or will discuss the matter prior to writing the report.

    For the emphasised quote in the paleontology report I doubt that the Branch would want to get calls about fossil discoveries as there is nothing they are mandated to do about it, unless it is in connection with a site protected by one of the means discussed above. But, it is not clear at all who should get these kinds of phone calls, unless it is on land subject to the Land Act, then probably one of the Lands offices will be getting such calls (and likely trying to foist them off on the archaeology branch).

    Finally, as neither of us are lawyers we could be completely wrong about a lot of this, or all of it.


  4. Hi, thanks for the comment and the interesting views on the Haida agreement, which I agree has huge potential to rework the notion of heritage site in that archipelago – away from archaeology’s traditional narrow, yet understandable, focus on material cultural and physical modification of the environment.

    Re: the Enbridge quotes, Archaeology Branch cover letter or not, it indicates to me that the fossil consultant very clearly thought they were working under the direction of the Archaeology Branch. When you combine that with the misleading cover page, and considering the branch did not require these misleading aspects to be edited out, it is very easy indeed to draw the conclusion that the Heritage Conservation Act was guiding the palaeontological work.

    These kinds of slippages matter because, again, not being a lawyer or nothing, everyone knows it is important to make sure your neighbour’s fence respects the surveyed property line; that Starbucks shuts down Haida Bucks to protect & police their trademark or risk losing it; and a dozen other kinds of situations where it is necessary to not allow slippage, to patrol the boundaries of properties and practices at the risk of losing rights or property. If the Archaeology Branch doesn’t want to end up doing fossils by default, they might make it clearer they are not doing fossils in practice.

    In any case, I think the point still stands that the government could protect any fossil site they wanted to immediately, whether by Section 9 designation or by any number of other means. And if you are right that they (would have been NDP government of day) stripped out fossil references with the “intention” of making a new law, then more shame on the governments of the last 15 years for not getting around to this. Could it be that it would appear to add more impediment to development, or they didn’t want to somehow “nationalize” fossils they consider to be a potential resource for private sector exploitation?

    Also, I note that the Lands Act, which supposedly protects fossils according to the AGF page noted above, does not contain the word fossil, or any other language I could see on a quick read (of a long law) that really unambiguously protects them (or even ambiguously protects them!!). This is the other point of slippage: the Leg. passes laws, but then procedures for their implementation are drawn up and these procedures can be manipulated in any number of ways to either emphasize or castrate any part of the law at least until challenged. So if the Lands Act is being invoked to protect fossils via some memo to that effect, I’d be interested to know if it is done in such a way that could be changed by a stroke of a pen from an unelected person.

    Anyway, its a good discussion which, even if we are both wrong, points to certain points of tension in the protection of heritage (broad sense) of B.C.


  5. One statute where fossils are mentioned is in a regulation that defines “fossil” in the Mineral Tenures Act. This is apparently an important change to reduce the commercial exploitation of fossils (making them to not be minerals). As it is relatively recent (2005) I would guess it is part of the movement towards protection:

    “Fossil exclusion
    1 For the purpose of paragraph (g) of the definition of “mineral” in section 1 of the Mineral Tenure Act, a fossil, defined as follows, is not a mineral:
    “fossil” does not include limestone, dolomite, coal, petroleum or natural gas. ”

    As to policing the minutiae of reports – the Branch staff could do this, but does it matter enough to be done at the expense of some other task, as surely it would have to be?


  6. It’s not really minutiae, as I point out above: it’s embedded in the very bibliographic reference for the report, and in the management recommendations of the report.

    I know in the past at least the Archaeology Branch has had backlogs of permit reports waiting to be approved to the extent of hiring contract people to go through them – so clearly these reports are, in fact, read prior to being accepted. Anyway, this is one example out of thousands of reports so it may not be representative of anything. It would be instructive for me to look deeply into that chink between the management recommendations of the consultant and the actual recommendations of the branch – as you say, sometimes more, sometimes less but do patterns emerge between these two crucial players in the BC Archaeology World. This would be a good thesis topic, hah.

    I think we agree on the underfunding of the Archaeology Branch, I’ve pointed that out a lot on this blog. Whatever else, this may be another symptom of that.

    I mean, [tangent approaching] imagine an archaeology branch with more staff and the ability to travel, so that they can pop up un-announced at random permitted projects in the Province and see what the heck is going on with their own eyes, and be pleasantly surprised, or not. I might be the only person who thinks that’s a good idea, but it is a good idea.


  7. It is a good idea, and it is my understanding that last week one member of the Branch staff was doing exactly that in the central interior, and that more such site visits are planned.


  8. I see that the on-line report and its bibliography have been annotated to make the context of this report clear, hopefully avoiding similar confusion in the future.


  9. Oil & Gas Commision staff (regularly) conduct surprise site visits and audits of archaeological assessments. I think it is an excellent part of their responsibilities, and also wish that a comparative amount of time could be spent in the field by the Victoria Branch staff (which appears to be happening, sloooowly).

    With regards to paleontological matters it was interesting to see in the most recent RFP for Site ‘C’ archaeological work a paleontological component being considered (although with very, very vague parameters). Unfortunately no paleontologist was included in the review of proposals submitted, so I was left to wonder … why bother ?

    Oh right, the background documentation on paleontology provided for the RFP was written by archaeologists, ergo paleontology is a branch of Anthropology. I would consider supporting a notion that Holocene (or slightly earlier) fossil sites be afforded some protection under the HCA by virtue of their temporal context within an ‘archaeological’ landscape, and therefore a potential to be directly or indirectly part of an archaeological context, but to consider hard-rock paleontological sites ‘Heritage’ is a reaffirmation that they are something to be ‘owned’. Paleontology plays a critical role in the search for new oil & gas (formanifera) and coal (genesis) plays, and evolutionary research, hence it has an economic utility beyond it’s ‘coolness’ factor with kids … and people aren’t scared to show of their found fossils. Consider Westcoast Energy who donated $50k of helicopter time to airlift a dinosaur out of the Sikanni River canyon in 2002/3, and then consider the last time a corporation in BC willingly provided similar funds for an archaeological project that had no bearing to their ability to conduct business. Failed by multi-culturalism, archaeology in BC is the runt of our collective social responsibility – which is why so much more effort needs to go into the protection of archaeological remains then our pan-cultural friend the fossil.


  10. Remi I think some context is needed for your comments so readers understand better the differences in how things are done around BC.

    The Oil and Gas commission statute is a “results based code” which essentially means that the industry is responsible for looking after itself and the OGC has an oversight role. Part of their statutory duties include audits of all the different areas for which OGC has a mandate, which includes archaeology via an MOU with the Archaeology Branch, as well as a statutory responsibility for issuing alteration permits (they are only allowed to exercise this responsibility if they have a qualified archaeologist on staff).

    The OGC actually has no choice but to conduct audits, and the Auditor General audits their audits and tells them how better to audit (this sentence written prior to food or caffeine). This means they have an ample budget to conduct audits. They also have 3 staff that deal with archaeology done under approximately 30 permits a year (the Branch has 6 staff, or 7 temporarily at the moment, that deal with the other 420+ permits each year, plus less than one staff for administration related to permits, plus responsibility for reviewing and issuing the ~30 OGC related inspection and investigation permits).

    I agree that the OGC audits are very important and that they have helped to raise and maintain standards for archaeological assessments done in the Oil and Gas sector in NE BC. In this respect the OGC is doing a much better job than the Archaeology Branch. The Archaeology Branch should also have the resources to conduct an equivalent (proportionately) number of field inspections and it would have the same effect I am sure.

    But then, one could argue that the Archaeology Branch should also have proportionally the same number of staff to oversee the permits it has responsibility for, which just will not ever happen (again). Taking OGC staff archaeological qualifications into account that would be between 15 and 45 staff for branch permitting section alone. I think these kinds of proportions of staff/permit existed in the 1970’s and 1980’s when there were fewer than 30 or 40 permits a year for the whole province, but the Archaeology Branch staff were also doing much of the CRM work with AIAs and small scale mitigation (larger scale mitigation was left to the universities and RBCM) and the associated analysis and write up. So, such comparisons are not really useful.

    If I recall correctly, the Sikanni Canyon project you refer to was conducted by the Royal Tyrrell Museum (one of the Alberta provincial museums). Thus, Westcoast Energy was making a donation to a charitable institution (tax break time) that has a very high profile which would get them kudos in the board rooms of Calgary and the ministerial offices in Edmonton.

    A much less self interested example (no tax breaks, kudos from those without power or influence), albeit from a few decades ago, was when a helicopter company (Okanagan Helicopters?) donated use of a heavy lifting machine to lift a petroglpyh up on to the top of Ringbolt Island in Kitselas Canyon to prevent its erosion into the Skeena River (they very nearly lost the helicopter in the process as the petroglypyh was heavier than calculated). This was arranged by provincial archaeological staff on an Indian Reserve outside their jurisdiction as a rescue operation, not as compensation for a corporate boo-boo or other business reason.

    I think there are actually many instances of companies donating resources to archaeology related projects in a manner similar to your Sikanni canyon example – where it does further their business interests but is not required. Many museums in BC receive this kind of funding (and issue tax receipts) and some of those apply it to archaeological projects or maintenance of archaeological collections. Some archaeologists are good at extracting funding or logistical support for research projects as well. Could there be more of this kind of support and could they do better for archaeological projects? Sure, and I think that is really where Remi’s complaint lies. But I also think that the archaeologists and curators have to find ways to help the corporations get the idea. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is very good at that, and it is helped by having terrific exhibits about prehistoric celebrities from a geological context with numerous head offices in a geology based and very wealthy industry that are just a short drive away.


    • Context ? What is that ?

      Seriously though, APM (even without coffee or food), thank-you for the clarifications. In the bigger scheme of things, I think we need to ask ourselves why the consultancies need to be reviewed / audited in the first place (i.e. is the need for more Project Officers driven by distrust of data collected ? Poor reporting ? Increases in reports of verifiable deficiencies). I would be curious to find out how HCA Permit & field work deficiency rates compare to other types of environmental assessments – which might be a tall order as many other disciplines do not needs Permits in order to complete their work.


  11. Thanks for the interesting comments, APM and Remi.

    I’ll admit it had not occurred to me the nature of the close link between fossils and oil/gas industry – that is, while the diagnostic micro-fossils important for geological typologies are a far cry from dinosaurs, they are on the same spectrum and studied with many of the same methods by people trained in the same disciplines. So there must be an intra-oil patch culture of fossily people which could help explain some things. I was also intrigued by the news report which stated the town of Tumbler Ridge, population 2,454 was funding the dinosaur study to the tune of over $100,000.

    But it is good to have the clarificaton about the OGC and the nature of the auditing Remi refers to. One lesson here is that there is a lot of opacity about how things work. The very fact that the day to day operation of archaeology in the NE has been delegated to the Oil and Gas commission has very poor optics in my opinion, not matter how solid the underlying reasons may be.

    It’s also very welcome to hear of spot-checks by the Archaeology Branch on field projects and I hope to hear a lot more about a lot more of these as time goes by. Right now archaeology (consulting and academic both) relies largely on the honour system and while both domains have potential conflicts of interest (consultants: money, grooming clients; academics: prestige, job security) the former are probably quite a bit sharper. And certainly more numerous. Anyway, maybe the random field check lottery will turn up academic’s names as well!


  12. I think you made a friends with a lot of consultants when you said that they were “probably quite a bit sharper” than the academics! Probably you are fishing for some of their money, or something 🙂


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