Fossil Management in British Columbia

Government oversees fossil management in British Columbia.

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 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. 

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. 

Fossil Resources - Maps and Database

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 and where fossil impact assessments should be done before activities on Crown land causing major disturbance of the bedrock are authorized to proceed.

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.

Fossil Management Framework

The Fossil Management Framework (the Framework) is a cohesive plan with legislative authorities (under the Land Act, Heritage Conservation Act and Mineral Tenure Act), tools, procedures and a fossil management policy governing site and specimen protection, impact prevention, and access management. The Framework manages data and is supported by Compliance and Enforcement Branch to ensure adherence to laws, designations and tenure requirements associated with fossils.

The Framework 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, and provides opportunities for resource users, educational programs and community involvement – geoheritage and geotourism.

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