Montana House approves bill to decide fossil ownership
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill saying fossils are part of a property’s surface estate and not the mineral estate.
Democratic Rep. Brad Hamlett’s bill passed 96-0 on Monday and advances to the Senate.
The bill was prompted by a legal dispute between the owners of a central Montana ranch and the land’s mineral rights owners over who owns dinosaur fossils worth millions of dollars unearthed there. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruled that the fossils are part of the mineral estate.
Ranch owners Mary Ann and Lige Murray are asking for the full 9th Circuit to hear the case or remand it back to the Montana Supreme Court to make a decision. The bill would not affect their case.