Fossil management in British Columbia

Fossils are the preserved remains, traces or imprints of organisms from the geological past. Trace fossils are marks left behind by the organism such as footprints.

Government oversees fossil management in British Columbia.

Last updated: December 29, 2020

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Fossils in B.C.

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

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

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

There are known site concentrations in:

  • Vancouver Island
  • Haida Gwaii
  • The Princeton-Merritt-Kamloops area
  • Southeastern and northeastern British Columbia
  • The Central Interior Plateau

Fossil resources - maps, database and consulting paleontologists

The Important Fossil Areas map was created to allow the public to see the locations of important fossil areas in the province. The data highlights areas where fossil resources are important.

View the Fossil Impact Assessment Flowchart (PDF 2 MB) for details about the Fossil impact assessment process.

View B.C.s Important Fossil Areas on iMap to see where fossil impact assessments(PDF 399 KB) should be done. Fossil impact assessments are done before activities on Crown land causing major disturbance of the bedrock are authorized to proceed.

The people on the List of qualified Lead Paleontologists are qualified to complete fossil impact assessments.

The Fossil Resources Map and database exist so authorized users can browse the location and view related details for thousands of known fossil sites in British Columbia.

Learn process details, and who can get access to the Fossil Occurrence Database, here: Information for Industry and authorized users.

If you are an authorized user Access the Fossil Resources Map here.


Become a qualified Lead Paleontologist

Are you a interested in becoming a qualified Lead Paleontologist for the purpose of conducting Fossil Impact Assessments? If so Consulting Paleontologists outlines the qualifications and application process. 


Fossil Management Framework

The Fossil Management Framework (the Framework) is a cohesive plan with legislative authorities, tools, procedures and a fossil management policy governing site. The Framework supports specimen protection, impact prevention, and access management. It is under the Land Act, Heritage Conservation Act and Mineral Tenure Act.

The Framework manages data and is supported by Compliance and Enforcement Branch to ensure laws, designations and tenure requirements associated with fossils are adhered to.

The Framework(PDF 399 KB) recognizes government’s ownership of fossils as well as their important scientific, educational and heritage value. It is a comprehensive approach that prevents the loss of significant fossils through unregulated collection, damage, sale or export. It also provides opportunities for resource users, educational programs and community involvement such as geoheritage.

geoheritage or geological heritage is a heritage category comparable to other forms of natural heritage, such as biodiversity. Some geoheritage sites, or "geosites" are related to human activity such as mining, and can also be viewed in terms of cultural heritage.

The Framework Principles

The Framework applies to all natural resource ministries in British Columbia and is guided by the following management principles:

  • Fossils and fossil sites are important to British Columbia as heritage resources.
  • The order of priority for fossil management is science, natural heritage, education and, where appropriate, commercial use.
  • The order of priority for extraction or excavation of fossils is science, natural heritage, education and, where appropriate, commercial use. Non-extractive commercial use has precedent over extractive commercial use.
  • A management framework that recognizes the heritage value of fossils, the need to protect significant fossil sites and the interests of stakeholders is necessary.

Framework objectives

  • Clarify the rules governing the management and use of fossils
  • Manage impacts on fossils from other activities
  • Provide for the stewardship of significant sites
  • Raise internal and external awareness of the framework and the importance of fossils
  • Build knowledge of the nature and extent of the resource in B.C.
  • Clarify the rights and obligations of the public, business, government and other stakeholders