Fossil management in British Columbia

Fossils are part of British Columbia’s natural heritage. Fossils include preserved remains of organisms in rock and preserved biological activity such as footprints called trace fossils. The British Columbia Fossil Management Office oversees management of fossil resources in B.C.

Last updated: March 19, 2021

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Fossils in B.C.

Fossils are the historical record of the evolution and development of life on Earth. They are important globally for their scientific, heritage, educational and economic value.

British Columbia has a rich and diverse variety of fossils and fossil deposits resulting from the complex geological processes that formed the province. 

For the legal definition of a fossil go to: Fossil Definition Regulation

Fossil sites are concentrated on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, in the Princeton-Merritt-Kamloops area, in southeastern and northeastern British Columbia and the Central Interior Plateau.

Jurisdiction for fossil management

Prior to 2005, fossils were included in the definition of “mineral” for the purposes of the Mineral Tenure Act, and subject to the provincial regime governing subsurface rights. In 2005, the Mineral Definition Modification Regulation (BC Reg. 5/2005) was created to exclude fossils from the definition of “mineral” under the Act, and to state that fossils do not include limestone, dolomite, coal, petroleum or natural gas. The regulation does not affect existing mineral claims, but prevents rights to fossils from being acquired by new mineral claims. 

The regulation makes fossils a resource that is administered under the Land Act (except those fossils subject to titles issued before January 12, 2005) and to ensure that limestone, dolomite, coal, petroleum and natural gas remain subject to the Mineral Tenure Act, Coal Act or Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, as applicable.

Land administered by the Park Act, the Ecological Reserve Act, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act, the Wildlife Act and the Environmental and Land Use Act has different legislative requirements with associated policies and procedures.

Important Fossil Areas

The Important Fossil Areas map allows the public to see generalized locations with important fossil resources in B.C. and indicate where Fossil Impact Assessments (PDF, 399 KB) should be done. Fossil impact assessments are done before activities on land causing major disturbance of the bedrock are authorized to proceed.