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Paleontological Resources Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce paleontological resource impacts from coal mining.

The following are examples of mitigation measures that could be applied to reduce impacts to paleontological resources depending upon site- and project-specific conditions. Impacts to paleontological resources are related to the project footprint (e.g., land disturbance, erosion, changes in runoff patterns, and hydrological alterations) and project emissions (e.g., sediment runoff, water releases). Impacts to paleontological resources that are not located within the mined area can be reduced or avoided when considered during the siting and design phase of a project. Those resources within the mining area would be lost, but could be discovered, collected, researched, and curated if managed appropriately in a manner consistent with the mining activity.

It should be noted that paleontological resources are considered trust resources on tribal lands. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) policy is to issue permits for excavation of paleontological resources with landowner consent. The landowner retains the right to sell any paleontological resources excavated on tribal lands. Measures to mitigate impacts would be implemented only if the landowner's intent was to preserve the paleontological record in place.

Siting and Design Mitigation Measures

Siting and design considerations that mitigate impacts include:

  • Consult with the BIA and the landowner to determine how paleontological trust resources will be handled for the project. If in situ preservation of the paleontological record is desired, the following mitigation measures could be applicable.
  • Determine whether paleontological resources exist in the project area based on the sedimentary context, a records search of finds in the area, and/or a professional paleontological survey.
  • Develop a paleontological resources management plan for areas with a high potential to contain significant fossils of scientific value.
  • Prepare a mitigation plan for avoiding, removing fossils, or monitoring mining activities.

General Mitigation Measures

General mitigation practices and principles that could apply to any or all phases of a coal mine project include:

  • Follow guidance in the paleontological resources management plan. For example:
    • Monitoring of all excavation and earthmoving in sensitive areas by a professional paleontologist may be required.
    • A discovery of a paleontological specimen during any phase of the project could result in a work stoppage in the vicinity of the find until it can be evaluated by a professional paleontologist.
    • Periodic monitoring of known significant paleontological resources in the vicinity of the mine (including areas where new road access has been provided) may be required to reduce the potential for looting and vandalism. Should loss or damage be detected, additional protective measures or further action (e.g., resource removal by a professional paleontologist) may be needed to mitigate the impact.
  • Educate workers and the public on the consequences of unauthorized collection or sale of fossils.
  • Use existing roads to the maximum extent feasible to avoid additional surface disturbance.
  • During all phases of the project, keep equipment and vehicles within the limits of the previously disturbed construction area.