Henry Ortiz: Museum Stonewalling Routine

I read with great interest your editorial concerning a dispute between a student of paleontology and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. ...

I agree with the student by stating that both the museum and the state Department of Cultural Affairs (that oversees it) choose to pursue a policy of stonewalling any person who confronts them.

In 1990 a team of paleontologists from the museum entered my land in the Pecos Valley to gather track-impression fossils and to conduct a study. ... After fossils were removed and geological and paleontological studies were carried out, my land became a regular field-study site of the museum up until 2005.

I finally found out what was going on by reading the published acknowledgments and complained to the museum and to the Department of Cultural Affairs. The whole thing amounted to inadvertent trespass and my claims centered only on paleontological utilization of my site rather than illegal entry.

Both entities stonewalled me, refusing to discuss any resolution or settlement for a fossil collection taken to the museum, for field-study utilization and for paleontological information that was published by authority of the state of New Mexico.

At the time I would have settled for any token amount or perhaps for a correct acknowledgment. Information about my site was published in the New Mexico Geological Guidebook and also surfaced on the Web.

Fortuitously, after visitations from museum employees stopped, my site rendered priceless information, including the tracks of Pseudosuchia, a rudimentary bipedal ancestor of dinosaurs. This finding underscores the paleontological importance of the site, one that would have furthered the research aspect of the museum. Because of stonewalling, my site is currently advertised as a private research site, preferably inaccessible to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

In stonewalling my claims the above-mentioned state-entities are overriding the privacy of my property and making a mockery of private ownership. The latter has prompted me to ask for state mediation in the matter.