What would you do if you found a fossil at a WA State Park? Is it legal to keep?

It's definitely not legal. Many people still think they'll take the item home though, assuming if they keep it a secret, there's no harm done.

But wouldn't a few questions go through your head?

  • Where did it come from?
  • How did it get here?
  • Is it worth keeping for myself?
  • Is it important to someone else?

I learned something fascinating - there's a program to inspire people to turn over artifacts to the proper people. That means others would be able to enjoy the find as much as you. By doing so, you would get to learn the history behind the find.

It is illegal to disturb cultural and natural resources.

Washington State law says that it is a class C felony for any person or entity to knowingly remove or damage any historic or prehistoric archaeological resource or site, or objects from those cites, without having obtained a written permit (RCW: 27.53.060). Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission even have a detailed Cultural Resources Management policy, if you're interested in reading all the details.

Because park visitors have found historical objects, WA State Parks' Stewardship Division developed the STEWARD program.

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If you discover an object that you believe may be valuable, it's recommended that you:

stop and leave it, tell a park employee about it, email info about your find to ARTIFACT@parkswa.gov, write down info about your discovery (record where it was found), take at least one photo of it, record the GPS location on a map, and finally DON'T share the info with anyone else.

 

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When an artifact is found, Collections staff preserve it, research it, and record or catalog it. Then, the object makes its way to a proper home, most likely a museum where others can view it. The S.T.E.W.A.R.D. guide can tell you more about the program.

READ MORE: The 5 Best Places to Dig for Fossils in Washington State

 

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