Fossil Management in British Columbia

The Heritage Branch is leading the implementation of the Fossil Management Framework (the Framework) for British Columbia. 

The implementation of the Framework is guided by the following fossil 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 fossil management framework that recognizes the heritage value of fossils, the need to protect significant fossil sites and the interests of stakeholders is necessary.

Endorsement of these principles led to a new regulation to exclude fossils from the definition of mineral under the Mineral Tenure Act.

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 fossil 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 BC; and
  • clarify the rights and obligations of the public, business, government and other stakeholders.

What are fossils?

Fossils are the preserved remains, traces or imprints of organisms from the geological past.  Fossils include marks left behind by the organisms while they were alive, such as footprints (trace fossils).  Fossils represent the historical record of the evolution and development of life on earth.  They are important globally as well as in BC for their scientific, heritage, educational and economic value.

Paleontology includes the study of fossils, their formation over geological time, and the evolutionary relationships between groups.

Fossil beds deposited at various time and under diverse circumstances contain different fossils.  British Columbia has a rich and diverse variety of fossils and fossil deposits resulting from the complex geological processes that formed the province. 

Although the distribution of the fossil resource is poorly understood within British Columbia,  known site concentrations are found on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, in the Princeton-Merritt-Kamloops area, in southeastern and northeastern British Columbia and the Central Interior Plateau.