The Paleontology toolbox provides material to assist in managing paleontological resources in wilderness. Due to the passage of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act in 2009, land management agencies are currently writing new regulations and policies for the stewardship of these resources. Contact us to suggest new materials for inclusion.


Paleontology and the Wilderness Act

The Wilderness Act does not specifically mention paleontological resources. However, in the definition of wilderness found in Section 2(c)(4), the Act says wilderness "may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical use." Paleontological resources are obviously geological, scientific, educational, and may be scenic.

In addition, Section 4(b) says, "Except as otherwise provided in this Act, wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, and historical use." Again, paleontological resources clearly fall into several of these categories.

The difficult task in managing paleontological resources in a wilderness setting is how to preserve those resources while at the same time preserving the other qualities of wilderness character. The contents of this Toolbox should help.

Management Regulations, Policies, and Practices


The FWS manages paleontological resources in wilderness under the section of the manual dealing with cultural resources, 610 FW 2.29

How does the Service protect cultural resources in wilderness? Cultural resources, such as archaeological sites, historic trails and structures, and sacred sites, may be unique and nonrenewable components of wilderness. We follow Service policy and standards for identifying, evaluating, protecting, and managing cultural resources (see the cultural resources management policy at 614 FW 1-5).

A. Burial and Sacred Sites. We may maintain burial sites or cemeteries located within a wilderness area, but we prohibit new interments unless authorized by Federal statute, existing reservations, or retained rights.

(1) We will identify and protect Native American sacred sites and religious areas.
(2) We allow Native American practitioners access to these sites within wilderness areas for religious and traditional ceremonial purposes subject to the prohibitions in 610 FW 1.16, the Service's sacred sites protection policy, and the compatibility policy (see 603 FW 2).
(3) We will notify and consult with appropriate tribal leaders on any decisions that may affect sacred sites and the practice of Native American religion as early as possible in the CCP and WSP processes. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 (42 U.S.C. 1996 and 1996a), Executive Order 13007 (Protection of Sacred Sites), and Service policy require this consultation. We must coordinate consultation through the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO) and Regional Native American liaison.

B. Archeological Research. We administer archaeological research within wilderness areas according to the conditions outlined for research in section 2.27. We encourage archeological research employing noninvasive and nondestructive survey and inventory methods. The refuge manager and the RHPO will review proposals for archeological research. The Regional Director approves or denies archaeological research permits based on the recommendation of the refuge manager and Regional archeologist. We will approve archeological research requiring digging, trenching, or other forms of excavation in wilderness when required to protect a threatened resource. We may also approve other research involving excavation when it can be demonstrated that significant archaeological information may be obtained that cannot reasonably be expected to be obtained from nonwilderness lands.

C. Historic Buildings and Structures. We comply with cultural resource administration requirements and policies when maintaining, using, or removing historic buildings and structures. We will use an MRA to make our decisions. We must consult with the RHPO and adhere to the requirements covered by sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and the regulations in 36 CFR part 800, for any work affecting historic buildings and structures. The RHPO determines if such properties are listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and consults with the appropriate State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Places. For buildings and structures that are eligible for or listed in the National Register that we have decided to use or maintain through an MRA, we will follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties using the minimum tools necessary. See section 2.5 for additional information about structures and installations in wilderness.