The Great Montana Dinosaur Duel: Who Owns the Bones?
While we doubt it will be the inspiration for the next movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, a fossil feud did make it to the state's highest court.
Under state law, dinosaur fossils are not minerals. Though divided, that was the ruling of the Montana Supreme Court. The decision centers around a legal battle on an eastern Montana ranch involving millions of dollars of fossils, which were found on the land.
So, who owns them? Well, the surface rights and the mineral rights are owned by different entities. So, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dropped the case like a snarling velociraptor into the lap of Montana's highest court for a ruling on state law in the case.
The Supreme Court made their decision, and now the 9th Circuit Court will decide who actually owns the fossils. The squabble has been going on for a number of years between Lige and Mary Ann Murray, who own the surface rights and one-third of the mineral rights of the ranch near Jordan, and brothers Jerry and Bo Severson, who each own a third of the mineral rights on the ranch once owned by their father. There have already been some sales of the fossils totaling millions of dollars.
It sounds like there is some pretty amazing discoveries, including "dueling dinosaurs" that look like they were locked in battle when they died. The find also includes a T. Rex remains and a triceratops skull.
As a note in the margin, the dispute led to the 2019 Montana Legislature passing a bill that states dinosaur fossils are not considered minerals under Montana law unless the contract separating the surface and mineral rights reserves fossils as part of the mineral rights. Umm, huh? That ought to clear things right up!