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Proponents for land use projects and developments must assess the potential to impact fossil resources.

Last updated: October 27, 2021

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The BC Fossil Management Office maintains guidelines and tools that help proponents identify potential impacts to fossils using an assessment process and that inform best practices when planning around fossil resources.

Assessment of potential impact to fossils begins with a preliminary study. If this initial study indicates low or very low risk to fossil resources, a Chance Find Protocol needs to be developed in the event that fossils are uncovered during land disturbance. If the preliminary study indicates project activity is likely to encounter areas with medium and high risk to fossil resources, a Fossil Impact Assessment is required, including a Chance Find Protocol and Mitigation Plan.

Preliminary Study

A preliminary study is the first phase of assessment intended to identify and review fossil resource potential or the likelihood that fossil sites are present.

  1. Study area description and summary of geological setting and geological units (map units, Groups or Formations) affected

  2. A map showing project location and boundaries in relation to known fossil sites, if present, and showing the fossil resource potential within the project area

  3. Notes about the fossil resource potential encountered in the project area

  4. A list of protected significant fossil sites in proximity to the project area

  5. Assess the potential risk to fossil sites based on the fossil resource potential and significant fossil sites in proximity to the project area

  6. If the risk is Very Low or Low, indicate in your report that the project activities will have low impact on fossil resources. The next step is for the Proponent to have a Chance Find Protocol in place

  7. If the risk is Medium or High, recommend that a FIA will commence in advance of the construction or development project to further assess fossil resources. The next step is to have a Lead Paleontologist prepare a more detailed FIA report

Please note that Appendix 5 of the Land Act Permission Policy (PDF, 276KB) outlines the conditions under which a Lead Paleontologist may conduct on-site investigation for the purpose of the preliminary study.


Fossil Impact Assessment (FIA)

The FIA determines pre- to post-development effects of project activities on fossil resources. The Fossil Impact Assessment Flowchart (PDF, 2.5MB) summarizes the FIA process.

The FIA Guidelines (PDF, 399 KB) outline the details required. The FIA builds on the Preliminary Study and should:

  • Provide the proponent with a plan for assessing and mitigating damage to fossil resources
  • Identify fossil sites in the project area and the fossil resource potential 
  • Assess the significance of fossils encountered
  • Document and photograph fossils encountered to minimize information lost during project activity
  • Complete a Data Sheet(PDF, 149KB) for fossil discoveries in the project area
  • Make impact management and mitigation recommendations
  • Arrange for transportation and curation of specimens

Please note that Appendix 5 of the Land Act Permission Policy (PDF, 276KB) outlines the conditions under which a Lead Paleontologist may conduct on-site investigation for the purpose of assessing potential impacts and extent of the fossil resources as part of the fossil impact assessment process.

This applies only when no site disturbance is needed, other than by hand tools, and must be in accordance with a plan submitted to (via e-mail) and approved by the BC Fossil Management Office.

FIA Plan for Paleontological Field Investigation (PDF, 164KB)

Chance Find Protocol and Data Sheet

A Chance Find Protocol must be developed because fossil resources may be discovered during industrial activity or development. This plan must be submitted to (via e-mail) and approved by the BC Fossil Management Office. 

The plan and its procedures will be site-specific. The purpose of a Chance Find Protocol is:

  1. To make workers aware of the fossil potential and types of fossils that may be encountered during excavation and moving of earth materials
  2. Identify the steps workers and operators should take and who they should contact when a fossil is discovered

Examples of Chance Find Protocols:

Fossils and fossil sites must be reported to the Fossil Management Office using the Data Sheet (PDF, 149KB).

Impact mitigation

Mitigation involves the assessment of impacts to fossil resources and having a site-specific Chance Find Protocol in place for unanticipated fossil discoveries.

Mitigation also requires development of a mitigation plan that lists, and implements, recommended measures to reduce adverse impacts on fossils encountered during ground disturbance.

Impact mitigation measures will be site-specific but may include:

  • Inform personnel of the types of fossils likely to occur
  • Suspend ground disturbance work in the vicinity of a fossil find and leave material in place; demarcate a protective buffer around the find area
  • Pause work to document the find. You must record the GPS location of the fossil, describe its position (e.g., depth below surface), photograph the site and the fossil
  • Report the find using the contact information in the Chance Find Protocol, and notify the BC Fossil Management Office
  • Salvage fossils through systematic excavation, in a scientifically sound yet efficient way, and move them to a safe location
  • Avoidance of a fossiliferous area by revising the development plan and leaving fossil resources intact
  • Monitoring of excavation by a qualified paleontologist during development activities. This may include fossil specimen recovery, data management (arranging curation of specimens) and reporting

Qualified Lead Paleontologists List for FIAs

Lead Paleontologist

The BC Fossil Management Office has compiled a list of paleontologists who hold the necessary qualifications to serve as Lead Paleontologist for the FIA process.

This list is intended as a convenience for proponents who require the services of a Lead Paleontologist and is not a prerequisite to work as a Lead Paleontologist in B.C. Unlisted paleontologists may also be qualified, and if so, may conduct FIAs.

FIAs must be conducted by or under the supervision of a qualified Lead Paleontologist, based on the qualifications listed in B.C.’s Fossil Impact Assessment Guidelines (PDF, 399KB)

Become a Lead Paleontologist


How to apply

Download Application Form(Fillable PDF 202 KB) 

Complete and submit application to

Your personal information is being collected by Heritage Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development according to section 26(c) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for the purpose of creating a list of Qualified Lead Paleontologists able to conduct fossil impact assessments.

The submission of your application indicates your consent for your business contact information and additional information (experience and expertise information as indicated in your application) to be posted online. This information may be accessed from outside of Canada. Your consent is applicable from the date of your submission.


  • A Ph. D. from an accredited university in a paleontological discipline is preferred. The Ph.D. paleontologist should have written a thesis in which there has been field research and laboratory components or have subsequent field and/or laboratory experience. 
  • OR a M.Sc. degree from an accredited university with a thesis in a paleontological discipline and a minimum of 3 years post-M.Sc. experience as a paleontologist could also serve as the project leader. The M.Sc. paleontologist should have a written thesis in which there has been field research and laboratory components, or subsequent supervised field and/or laboratory experience demonstrating the capacity to act as the project leader for an equivalent project size.
  • OR a combination of education and experience that offers a similar skillset to those outlined above.


  • Fieldwork under supervision (24 weeks)
  • Laboratory and/or curation training under supervision (24 weeks)
  • Project leadership and/or supervision
  • Demonstrated ability to design and conduct paleontological research
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate through written work
  • A record of peer-reviewed reports and/or other publications


  • Professional affiliations

The information provided will be reviewed to determine if the applicant possesses the qualifications necessary for a Lead Paleontologist. If so, the applicant’s contact information will be placed on the List of British Columbia Fossil Resource Consultants, which will be posted on the Fossil Management website. Education and experience information may be posted as well.

Questions about the collection or use of your information may be sent to the Heritage Branch at


Other FIA roles

The FIA Guidelines identify the qualifications required to perform other roles in the undertaking of FIAs. The BC Fossil Management Office expects that the Lead Paleontologist will ensure that other staff possess the necessary qualifications.

Tools and guidelines

The BC Fossil Management Office maintains several documents which provide advice and assistance on policies and best practices to follow when planning around fossil resources.

Fossil Occurrence Database

The Fossil Occurrence Database provides spatial information on the distribution of fossil sites in British Columbia. A fossil site is a location where there are preserved remains, traces or imprints of organisms from the geological past.

The database is maintained by the BC Fossil Management Office and displays information such as site description, taxonomic data, site geology, fossil information, and reports. This information is provided to allow industry, professional paleontologists and geologists, First Nations, and government users to make informed decisions regarding land use planning and protection of fossil resources (see fossil protection).

Users may obtain access to the Fossil Occurrence Database by submitting a completed Fossil Information Sharing Agreement form:

Fossil Resource Map

Authorized users may access the fossil occurrence information through the Fossil Resources Web Map.

Login to the Fossil Resources Map