Thursday, August 29, 2013

To hunt relics, follow rules or face prison

From The Frederick News-Post
It is a crime to remove artifacts from federal property. Unauthorized metal detecting and artifact collecting are strictly forbidden in national parks.
However, it is legal to search for relics on private property with the consent of the owners, said Keith Goettner, who used to search for artifacts in the Fredericksburg, Va., area.
“If you know somebody who lives along an old camp or battlefield, those are great places to dig,” Goettner said. “I used to find a lot.”
The Gettysburg area is rich with artifacts buried just below the ground.
Cary Murphy said there is a grave marker for a fallen soldier in his backyard. He wouldn’t dream of disturbing it, he said. He’s also found a bag of bullets, equipment straps, a ring and other small items on his property. They aren’t for sale at his shop, though.
“That’s part of the house’s history,” he said. “That stays with the house.”
Goettner said anyone who is relic hunting should be aware of the boundaries near them and obtain proper permission before setting out.
Hundreds of incidents of looting are reported on federal land annually, according to the National Park Service Archaeology Program.
From 2004 to 2007, the government documented 3,143 incidents of looting or vandalism on federal lands. The real number is expected to be higher because some illegal activity is never uncovered, according to the NPS.
Federal agencies arrested 96 looters between 2004 and 2007. Citations were given to 351 people in the same time period, according to the NPS.
More than $1 million of federal parks property was seized and more than $2.1 million in damaged was caused in the 2004 to 2007 incidents.
Archaeological looters and vandals have been prosecuted under the federal Antiquities Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, in addition to more than 40 other federal and state laws.
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor ARPA offense is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, said Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman for Gettysburg National Military Park. The maximum penalty for a felony ARPA offense, meaning the damage was more than $500, is two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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