Parks Canada recovers fossils illegally removed from Burgess Shale in Kootenay National Park
Investigation involving Parks Canada park wardens, the RCMP, the Longueuil Police Department, and the Royal Ontario Museum results in the forfeiture of 45 fossils, a $20,000 fine and five months of house arrest
May 12, 2022 Lake Louise, Alberta Parks Canada Agency
Parks Canada is responsible for protecting nationally significant examples of cultural and natural heritage, including the renowned Burgess Shale fossil sites in both Yoho and Kootenay national parks, and is proud to help share this incredible story with visitors. To conserve and protect national parks for present and future generations, the removal of any natural objects such as fossils, plants, or animals is prohibited under the Canada National Parks Act.
In summer 2020, Parks Canada park wardens in Lake Louise received a tip from a member of the public regarding fossil removal from the Burgess Shale. An investigation during the summer and fall of 2020 led to a search warrant. Park wardens from La Mauricie National Park and the Québec Waterways, and the Longueuil Police Department executed the search warrant at a private residence in the Montreal area on November 20, 2020. The search recovered 45 fossils, which were identified by an expert from the Royal Ontario Museum as originating from sites within Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper national parks. The majority of the fossils originated from the Burgess Shale Marble Canyon Quarry in Kootenay National Park, an area not currently accessible to the public.
The individual responsible was sentenced to forfeiture of the 45 fossils, a $20,000 fine and a five-month conditional sentence order which included a curfew order. This is the largest fine that has been levied to date for the removal of fossils from the Burgess Shale, and demonstrates the seriousness of the offence and the importance of this site. The money from the fine will go to the Environmental Damages Fund and be used to support projects that restore nature and conserve wildlife and habitats.
This was a complex investigation that demonstrates Parks Canada’s commitment and support from partner agencies to protect Canada’s natural heritage. Parks Canada would like to thank all those involved, including the RCMP, the Longueuil Police Department, the Royal Ontario Museum, and Parks Canada park wardens from BC, Alberta and Québec.
First identified in 1909 in Yoho National Park, the Burgess Shale is widely recognized as one of the most significant fossil sites in the world. The Burgess Shale contains fossil evidence of some of the earliest complex animals that existed in the oceans of our planet over 505 million years ago and was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980.
Burgess Shale fossils near Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park were first noted in 1989 by researchers with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The Marble Canyon Quarry in Kootenay National Park was discovered by researchers from the ROM in 2012. The ROM has now collected more than 10,000 fossil specimens from this new site. Research continues on this fossil quarry and in the surrounding area.
Each expedition to the Burgess Shale requires a proper Parks Canada research and collection permit and the fossils remain the property of the Government of Canada. The ROM Burgess Shale collection, held in trust for Parks Canada, is actively used for research, teaching, and display.
Parks Canada park wardens play a key role in supporting the protection of Canada’s natural heritage by providing law enforcement services. When visitors commit offences under the Canada National Parks Act, park wardens ensure that safe, appropriate, and effective law enforcement actions are taken.
On April 27, 2022, the individual responsible pleaded guilty at the Cranbrook British Columbia Provincial Court to two offences under the Canada National Parks Act and National Park General Regulations:
o Removing natural objects (fossils) contrary to Section 10 of the National Park General Regulations.
o Unlawfully traffic in wild animals (fossils removed from Kootenay National Park) by transport contrary to subsection 25(1) of the Canada National Parks Act.
Section 25 of the Act refers to both living and dead wild animals, which is why fossils are covered under this offence.
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Lake Louise Yoho Kootenay Field Unit – Parks Canada
Parks Canada Agency
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