Fossils and Articles

Laws for the conservation of ancient monuments (Denkmalschutzgesetz) in North Rhine-Westphalia

According to the laws of North Rhine-Westphalia for the conservation of ancient monuments relicts of animal and plant life of geological eras (that means fossils) can be protected if the public expresses such an interest.
This constraint is of meaning because only special fossils or fossil-carrying layers can be declared archaeological monuments. The department for the protection of monuments and the LWL-Museum of Natural History define the value of a certain fossil.

Are there rules for collecting fossils?

In the protected areas, that means paleontological ground monuments that are listed as protected, digs and searches for fossils are only authorized in case of exception. Scientific investigations can be authorized if certain conditions are met. Digging in search of paleontological ground monuments outside of officially listed monuments also needs to be authorized. Permits can be given if certain conditions are met. Apart from that, the property owner also has to give his agreement.

Where can fossils be collected without any permit?

Searches in quarries and construction zones do not require a permit. But if a fossil is found that might be of greater interest to the public, the responsible community or the responsible department in Münster has to be contacted immediately and the location of the discovery has to be maintained in its original condition. To be sure of not intervening with a ground monument, the community or responsible department should be contacted before collecting fossils. Before accessing private ground, the property holder’s consent has to be acquired.
Do geological excursions, mappings and investigations require a permit?
Geological investigations, mappings, excursions, explorations, digs and drillings do not require a permit if fossils are only used for data collection. The exception is if they take place on enlisted ground monuments. If significant fossils are found, these have to be reported.

Where can I get permits for geological digs?

Applications for permits for paleontological digs and fossil searches can be submitted to the responsible department for the protection of monuments. These are either located with the district or the regional government. Scientists and scientifically working fossil collectors can receive a commission at the LWL-Museum of Natural History.

Is it sufficient to obtain the agreement by the land owner for a digging permit?

No, it is not sufficient and neither is the agreement by company or department representatives. Only the responsible department for the protection of monuments can give the needed permits and only the LWL-Museum of Natural History can give commissions for the gathering of fossils.

Who is the owner of the collected fossils?

The collected fossils belong to the finder as well as to the land owner (half and half). If significant fossils were found, the responsible department has the right to take over the discoveries for up to 6 months to complete scientific documentations and research. If the significance of an object requires it to transfer it into a public collection, the owners have to be compensated.

If you made a discovery please contact:

LWL-Museum of Natural History
Westphalian State Museum and Planetarium
Paleontological Ground Monument Preservation
Sentruper Str. 285 | 48161 Münster
Phone +49.251.591-05
Fax +49.251.591-6098