Dear Collecting Friend:
The collecting community should be aware of recent proposed changes to Florida Law regarding historical resources and sites. House Bill 591 and companion Senate Bill SB 868 were recently introduced that would have expanded the power of the Department of Historical Resources to unprecedented levels. Thankfully, these draconian measures died after initial passage by the Florida House and Senate. Thanks to several DILIGENT collectors in the metal detecting and arrowhead hobby and their perserverance, these two anti-collecting bills were narrowly defeated In Florida. You can rest assured that the Bill Sponsors WILL be back, and will not give up in their fight to pass anti-collecting legislation.
Concurrently, Senate Bill 81 in Alabama passed both the House and Senate which would clarify a “anti-collecting loophole” in existing law, that has been recently exploited by the Alabama Historical Commission.
The entire purpose of SB 81 was to remove the phrase “whether or not” (see the language from the current law here)
(4) “CULTURAL RESOURCES. All abandoned
shipwrecks or remains of those ships and all underwater
archaeological treasures, artifacts, treasure troves, or other
cultural articles and materials, whether or not associated
with any shipwreck, that are contained in or on submerged
lands belonging to the State of Alabama and the sea within the
jurisdiction of the state, and that have remained unclaimed
for more than 50 years, excluding therefrom sunken logs,
cants, and timber resources of any other type not associated
as part of a shipping vessel, and are eligible for, or listed
in, the National Register of Historic Places or the Alabama
Register of Landmarks and Heritage and any items covered in
Bascially, the term whether or not, as the law is currently written,
allows for the Alabama Historical Society to direct law enforcement
to write citations and make arrests, whether or not, the artifacts
are recovered from a shipwreck. By removal of “Whether or Not“,
the burden of proof shifts to the AHC and law enforcement to
prove the items are from a shipwreck.
In summary, removal of “whether or not” would do nothing to affect
protection of shipwreck sites, but the removal of those 3 words would
take away the power of the AHC to request enforcement actions
against collectors doing so on “non-shipwreck” sites, which could
be anywhere, as the law is currently written.
The bill was vigorously challenged by the Alabama Historical Commission, a state department created by the State’s Legislature. In the agency’s view, any artifact found in an Alabama waterway is the sole property of the state. The Commission’s stance has led to lawsuits, arrests and a full-scale assault on lawmakers and private citizens. The Historical Commission over the years has done little to explore, retrieve or preserve these artifacts. Under the existing statue, for example, if a family was fishing along the Coosa River and one of the children while attempting to land a fish in his net happened to scoop up a civil war mini-ball, that ball would belong to the state. The child could also be charged with a crime for disturbing the artifact. While this may seem absurd, the current law can be interpreted that narrowly. This narrow interpretations has led to untold historical artifacts laying in muddy waters of Alabama.
Two amendments where added to the bill. One provides that no such artifacts are recovered by the process of mechanical and/or hydraulic dredging. The other amendment came from Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) stating, [It] shall be a Class A misdemeanor to violate the provisions of this law. This would be equivalent to a speeding ticket, according to Bedford.
In summary, as you can see, the Anti-Collecting Effort is alive and well, much to our chagrin. It is IMPERATIVE that we grow our numbers, be vigilant and progressive in our lobbying efforts. Do not turn a blind eye or think for a minute that the folks that would like to take our hobby away, will ever go away.
The only hope we have is UNITY and strength in numbers. Rest assured, TSAS will be using all of our resources to do what we can to protect our hobby but we can’t do it without your support and direct involvement! It will take EVERYONE doing everything we can to protect our hobby – its a fight that never ends!
Good luck and good hunting!
President – TSAS