GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 113-9
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM


WILKINS, William, USDA Forest Service, Minerals & Geology Management, 1617 Cole Blvd, Lakewood, CO 80401, SCHUMACHER, Bruce, USDA Forest Service, Lakewood, CO 80401-3305 and BEASLEY, Barbara A., USDA Forest Service, Nebraska National Forest, 125 N. Main Street, Chadron, NE 69337

Research involving Quaternary (Holocene and Anthropocene) fossils is a rapidly growing area of paleontological science, particularly studies quantifying climate change through biogeographic, isotopic, genetic, and other biomolecular analyses. Nonrenewable fossils on federal lands in the United States are governed by the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 (PRPA). This law and associated regulations are generally perceived to pertain to paleontological resources many millions of years old, but apply equally to fossil remains that are decades or centuries old. The USDA regulatory definitions of “fossil”, “fossilized”, and “paleontological resources” (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, subpart 291.5 [36 CFR 291]) do not include subjective limiting factors of geologic age or type of preservation. Accordingly, research or collection of Quaternary paleontological resources requires a permit (form FS-2800-22B) on National Forest System lands. Although PRPA research and collection requirements are applicable to all paleontological resources, the Forest Service will emphasize policy on vertebrates for Quaternary fossils of antiquity. Vertebrate remains are universally considered significant by the PRPA as they are rare relative to plant and invertebrate fossils. Paleontological resources in cave or archaeological contexts are managed by requirements of other federal laws, but also the PRPA for some aspects such as permitting for collection in cave deposits. Beyond archaeological or caves contexts, other examples of Quaternary vertebrate remains covered by the PRPA include those preserved in high altitude snow/ice or within unconsolidated shoreline or riparian sediments. Assessing whether particular Quaternary fossils qualify as paleontological resources can be undertaken through a determination process outlined in 36 CFR subpart 291.9. Such determinations include a significance qualifier applicable to extirpated taxa (e.g. Bison sp., Canis lupus, etc.). The Forest Service recognizes the term “vertebrate paleontological resources” to include Recent Quaternary remains qualifying as such through paleontological interest, and manage such specimens by permit requirements and protections of the PRPA.