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Paleontological Resource
Impact Assessments Guide



Cretaceous Ammonite (Plancenticeras; 40cm in diameter)



Fossils as public paleontological resources have been recognized as important elements in the historical and scientific endowment of the people. Many governments are developing regulatory processes to guard against the willful or negligent destruction or theft of fossils. The Historical Resources Act of Alberta (excerpts pertaining to Paleontological Resources) has provided for the development of regulative controls to manage construction and development in areas where the potential loss to these resources is at risk. The government division of Cultural Facilities & Historical Resources of the Department of Community Development oversees and is responsible for the preservation of fossil material. Important government agencies involved with paleontological resource protection are:

Historic Sites and Cultural Facilities Branch
Old St. Stephen's College
8820 - 112 Street
Edmonton , Alberta T6G 2P8
Tel: (780) 431-2300

Alberta Historical Resources Foundation
Old St. Stephen's College
8820 - 112 Street
Edmonton , Alberta T6G 2P8
Tel: (780) 415-1166

Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
Box 7500
Drumheller , Alberta T0J 0Y0

Tel: (403) 823-7707

The present government contact for paleontological resource management at the Tyrrell Museum is Dan Spivak (Dan.Spivak@gov.ab.ca).

In areas where there is the risk of resource loss the government regulations requires that a paleontologist qualifiedto hold a palaeontological collection permit within the Province of Alberta assess the potential impact prior to the issue of a development permit. A paleontologist becomes involved in the planning and appraisal of types of construction which require the disturbance of surficial sediments in fossiliferous areas, such as: coulees, badlands, river valleys and embankments, foothills, escarpments, mountain terrains, and road cuts.

A portion of the Paleontological Resource Sensitivity map (Alberta Culture, 1984) Green is low; red is highly sensitive.

The following construction activities often encounter fossiliferous material

Mining, Pipelines, Petroleum well drilling, Excavations – borrow pits and foundations, Road Construction and improvements

Paleocene Leaf:

 Of particular interest to the government is the protection of known paleontological sites which have scientifically significant fossil discoveries, type localities for fossil species and intensively studied or sites which are utilized by educational institutions for teaching purposes. The government regulations require that the construction company or individual provide in a due-diligent manner professional paleontological support prior, during and/or subsequent to the activities to preserve the paleontological resources.

Dr. Edward H. Davies - a qualified professional paleontologist at Branta Biostratigraphy Ltd. - has been involved in paleontological management of construction activities since 1993. His educational background in a Ph.D in Geology from the University of Toronto graduating in 1979. He has worked for oil exploration companies and has been a palaeontological research scientist for the Geological Survey of Canada for five years. Over the 24 years of post-doctoral work of which 14 years have been in biostratigraphic consulting services. He is a member of Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta.

The paleontologist can conduct in a number of duties which can expedite the construction process:

1.  Paleontological Resource Overviews

2.  Paleontological Resource Impact Assessments

3.  Paleontological Resource Monitoring

4.  Paleontological Resource Mitigation

5.  Paleontological Resource Curation and Reporting



Prior to the submission of the construction permit application a paleontological overview of the potential impact on the paleontological resources can be made by the professional paleontologist. This process is being encouraged by the government as a proactive measure to ensure the design of the project is compatible with paleontological preservation and minimize potential delays in permit approval and construction. This activity has become quite popular with companies who cannot afford to have their development progress hindered by external events. Often this requires just the search on the paleontological site database and a quick review of existing paleontological literature, photographs and maps.

Paleontological Resource Impact Assessments (PRIA) Upon the review of an application for a construction permit Alberta Culture, Paleontological Resource Management may require a PRIA be performed before the development will be approved. The regulations require that a professional paleontologist review of existing paleontological literature, photographs and maps and examine the site.

The objectives of the assessments are:

  • To observe the construction site and study the construction plans and determine the implicated paleontological impact
  • To offer advice to preserve the known paleontological sites
  • To locate other fossiliferous sites and significant fossils
  • To rescue and salvage any significant fossils
  • To document photographically the paleontological resources
  • To recommend mitigative steps

As of August 1, 2002, an approved Mitigative Palaeontological Excavation Permit, must be issued by Alberta Community Development in order to perform the required field activities. A full report with maps and photographs of fossils and localities, assessments and mitigative recommendations is to be submitted to the government. This process may take several weeks for approval for construction.



Upon review of the PRIA Paleontological Resource Management of Alberta Community Development may require monitoring of the construction was performed to minimize impact to the fossils in sensitive areas in order to preserve and stabilize the palaeontological resources. The duties of the monitoring paleontologist are to minimize this impact through the conservation of the known palaeontological sites, the identification of new sites, the salvage of potentially lost fossils and the mediation of the construction company and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in compliance with Section 33(2) of the Historical Resources Act and any specific requirements set out in the Historical Resources Impact Statementprior to construction approval by Alberta Community Development, Cultural Facilities and Historical Resources Division. As of August 1, 2002, an approved Mitigative Palaeontological Excavation Permit, must be issued by Alberta Community Development in order to perform the required field activities.

The objectives of palaeontological monitoring are:

  • To consult with the staff of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

  • To preview the construction site and plans.

  • To observe the construction progress and offer advice to preserve the known palaeontological sites

  • To locate other fossiliferous sites and significant fossils as excavation proceeds.

  • To rescue and salvage any significant fossils

  • To maintain geological integrity of the surrounding outcrop to leave the fossil site

  • To document photographically the excavation process

All significant paleontological discoveries are to be reported to Resource Management immediately, the impacting construction should cease until permission is granted or approved mitigative steps are taken. Upon completion of the construction activity a report with maps and photographs of any palaeontological resources encountered and localities, assessments and recommendations is to be submitted to the government. Any recovered fossils must be identified, catalogued and submitted to the Tyrrell Museum for curation.

Paleontological Resource Mitigation In the event that significant paleontological forms are discovered Alberta Culture may require the fossils to be rescued and salvaged. Depending upon the significance of the discovery this may be performed by the qualified paleontologist or by the staff of the Tyrrell Museum. The construction may either cease in the area of the discovery or be modified as to minimize the impact of the palaeontological resource. In order to perform these field activities it is required, as of August 1, 2002 that a Mitigative Palaeontological Excavation Permit be approved by Alberta Community Development.



All fossils collected must be identified, photographed, catalogued and submitted to the Tyrrell Museum for curation subsequent to the construction program. Fossils are collected for two principal reasons:

  • To rescue and salvage significant fossils

  • To take representative fossils to show the condition, composition and abundances of various units and sites.

Immediate collection of fossils are confined to specimens which were dislodged or at the surface and subject to weathering or destruction by the construction machinery. All significant fossils are referred to Resource Management staff at the Tyrrell Museum. The following Methodology of cataloguing and curation:

Each collection is labelled individually. Each collection is placed one or more boxes. For each site a RTMP locality sheet was filled out. For each collection a RTMP Specimen Data Sheet is filled out giving the pertinent data including the primary fossil species. All fossils are conserved at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. A dual digital camcorder/camera is utilized to take video and still photographs of the construction progress, paleontological sites and recovered fossils. Photographic montage may be made illustrating the general location on the roadcut exposure, a close up of the stratigraphic location and/or a selection of fossils found at the site. A representative photo was taken for each collection box of fossils. A detailed daily log is kept is kept on the progression of the construction and the presence of paleontological resources.



Alberta Culture Historical Resources Division

1982 PALAEONTOLOGICAL RESOURCES REGULATIONS, Historical Resources Act A.P.A.C. Chairman , Assistant Deputy Minister Alberta Culture ALBERTA REGULATION 77/82 Form C, The Queen's Printer for Alberta, (http://www.qp.gov.ab.ca/Documents/REGS/1982_077.CFM.

Alberta Culture - Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
1984 Palaeontological Resource Sensitivity Zones, Energy Conservation Resource Board. [Map]

The Province of Alberta
1980 HISTORICAL RESOURCES ACT, CHAPTER H-8, The Revised Statutes of Alberta 1980 cH-8, The Queen's Printer for Alberta, (www.gov.ab.ca/qp/ascii/Acts/WPD/H08.TXT)






© Branta Biostratigraphy Ltd.
Edward H. Davies Ph.D., P.Geol.