Pilfering the Parks and Other Historic Places
Almost 50 years ago, Congress decommissioned Fossil Cycad National Monument as a unit of the National Park Service, in large part because most of the fossils that had originally earned the monument its distinction had been pilfered from the area.
Fortunately, preservation of NPS units has improved greatly since the 1950s. Still, there was a distressing story in the Christian Science Monitor the other day recounting how theft of artifacts from national parks and other federal holdings continues to be a problem.
According to the story, more than $500 million worth of artifacts are stolen each year from national parks, battlefields, museums and private collections.
The problem is increasing in national parks in part because ranger ranks are being depleted by funding woes. "We're woefully understaffed," Tim Canaday, an archaeologist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who worked on a multi-agency investigation with the Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper.