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Two years later, where is the 92-pound Petoskey stone?

Platypus Club member Scott Erskine shared this one with me. It has several interesting facets to it. First, this is a fossil. It’s a fossil of a coral to be specific. Hexagonaria percarinata to be even more specific. This is a large polyp stony coral similar to many that still exist today. Corals are very old and have succeeded through ice ages and heat waves.Though they are much older than reefs (soft corals don’t build reefs) the reef building stony kind appears on the scene around 410 million years ago. Though we read a lot of stories about coral bleaching we do know from that history that corals survive even if they vanish from the scene as a predominant organism in the ocean they seem to eventually flourish again. So, that part of the story is also interesting.

The second part of the story is also interesting and really brings up a worthwhile debate on land use.

“O’Brien said he was never aware of the ordinance and he never intended to do anything with the Petoskey stone except display it on his lawn. “I wasn’t going to cut slabs off of it and sell them for $100 a piece,” he said Thursday. “And I’m not trying to rape the land.””

If the land is considered “public” land what means the community owns it. If that’s the case then the debate is what use of that land does the community get. If you own land you can do what you want with it. If you share ownership you have to ask your partner. Though many deride the regulation that prohibits this man from taking the fossil it can be said that it isn’t his land to do with as he pleases. It’s a shared resource and taking more than your fair share is stealing. Who gets to decide that? The co-owners do of course. In this case that is your fellow citizens and they decide through their elected representatives. Taking rocks isn’t illegal, but taking really large ones is. So the co-owners in this case have said what proper land use is, and isn’t.

While the person in this story says he wasn’t aware of the ordinance it does seem like something a person would look into before taking a really large fossil for themselves. he’s taken something from a shared resource to put on his lawn making it an individual resource. Sure, his taxes paid for his use of the land, but his portion doesn’t equal the value of that rock according to his community.

So, while this may at first seem like a story about a dumb and unnecessary regulation, it’s actually a good example of why we need some government, that is, to protect resources shared in common. It’s about property rights with the owners being the tax payers. Those same co-owners could decide to allow whatever use of the land they want. The limit of smaller rocks could be lifted just as easily as it was set. It does make sense though, when we stop and think of it, that a person doesn’t have the right to whatever they want on land that they aren’t the sole owner of. If I buy a car with my cousin and then go and sell off the back seat without asking him, well, he has a right to be upset. Same principle applies to public land.


(WPBN/WGTU) — In September 2015 a Manistee County man managed to pull in a rock hound haul of a lifetime; a 92-pound Petoskey stone. Tim O’Brien of Copemish spotted the huge Petoskey stone buried in the sand several feet out in Lake Michigan.  After O’Bri

Source: Two years later, where is the 92-pound Petoskey stone? | WPBN

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