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‘Citizen archaeology’ bills die in committee

TALLAHASSEE — To the relief of Native American Tribes in Florida, the state Legislature ended its 2016 session March 11 with both House Bill 803 and Senate Bill 1054 dead in committee.

Had the Citizens Archaeology Permit (CAP) bills been passed and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, anyone with a $100 permit, without any degree, license or experience in archaeology, would have been able to dig by hand or trowel to excavate artifacts in state-owned submerged lands, as long as they reported the location of any finds to the state.

“It’s over. Unless they try to come back in a special session, we can stop worrying,” said Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Director Paul Backhouse.

Florida had a similar program from 1994 until 2005 that was deemed a failure; it was not a law, but a program of the state Division of Historical Resources called Isolated Finds Program (IFP). It was killed when a Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research (BAR) study proved that most artifacts collected under the IFP were unreported and underreported. In fact, the BAR survey found 78 percent noncompliance, in line with a similar program tried temporarily – and killed – in South Carolina.

“These bills are not about children innocently picking up an artifact at the park,” archaeologist Sarah Miller, of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, wrote on the South Florida Wildlands Association Facebook page. “They are about criminal mining of state resources … The people of Florida already own them, and they are not for sale.”