[Source: Judy Keen, USA Today] -- Looting of fossils and archaeological artifacts from national parks — such as Native American pottery and Civil War relics — is increasing as demand for such items rises on the Internet and the world market, U.S. National Park Service officials say. Over the past decade, an average of 340 "significant" looting incidents have been reported annually at the 391 national parks, monuments, historic sites and battlefields — probably less than 25% of the actual number of thefts, says park service staff ranger Greg Lawler. "The trends are up," he says. It's "a chronic problem that we simply have not even been able to get a grasp on," says Mark Gorman, chief ranger at South Dakota's Badlands National Park.
Park service investigators search websites and the FBI helps track looted items, some of which are sold to collectors in Europe and Asia. Prices are rising for some items, including Native American pottery and garments, says Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, manager of the FBI art theft program. The most coveted items can cost "in the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars," she says. Thieves caught last year at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park sold a Confederate belt buckle for $3,300 and buttons for $200 each. The park service has 1,500 law enforcement rangers and 400 seasonal law enforcement rangers — one for about every 56,000 acres. "We really don't have enough manpower," Lawler says.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Andrew Councill, USA Today. Pictured: Park Ranger shows a buckle recovered from an "illegal" sale and a bayonette recovered at a Park Service storage facility in Va.]