Public Lands and Waters

Public Lands and Waters

My sons and I have helped introduce a new bill in the Alabama Senate, SB-81, that will make the current law easier to understand. The public currently has the right to find isolated underwater finds, but some professional archaeologists and their cronies at the Alabama Historical Commission have misled some law enforcement officers into believing that it is illegal to find and keep isolated finds such as an arrowhead, a coke bottle, or a coin. This is not true, but people have been harassed, detained, and their property confiscated on the Tennessee and Alabama Rivers, and in Mobile Bay.

Our bill does three things:   Please read SB-81

  • Deletes (whether or not) from the definition of Cultural Resources  
  • Adds a definition for an artifact where no definition currently exists   
  • Adds the already existing state and federal law numbers to the bill, so that it protects Indian burial grounds and any other cemeteries that are underwater  

All historic shipwrecks are currently controlled by the AHC, and we are not trying to change that at all. SB-81 does not increase or decrease any current or future cultural resources that are to be permitted by the Alabama Historical Commission. We just don’t want our law enforcement officers to be used by professional archaeologists to stop divers from legal diving.   

An article was in the Birmingham News on January 16th that brought attention to the matter, and some of the professional archaeologists have been emailing and calling the Senators and Representatives asking them to kill our bill. These professional archaeologists and their cronies want exclusive rights to our 77,000 miles of waterways and to everything underwater. They could just as well claim all fish belong to the state, so no one could keep a fish.

Alabama has over 100,000 divers who work and pay taxes. We are permitted and certified. We have our boats permitted, and we support Alabama. Divers should find isolated items and save as much of our lost history as possible, and we need them to not be afraid to tell what they find because they fear harassment. Significant finds will be made in the future and we all want to learn from these finds. Other states have friendly dive laws that encourage divers to search and share what they have found, and we don’t want Alabama divers to feel they must keep their finds secret. These items are rusting and eroding away and need saving. We divers do not want to limit the efforts of the professionals, but we don’t want them to be our masters or regulators. We are the public and the public waters are ours individually as much as theirs. Individual Rights are what our constitution guarantees, not that the mob rules.

Items that are found are often placed in museums such as Tannehill State Park.  All reference books identifying relics and artifacts have been written by  authors using collectors such as our family, and over twelve reference books have been written using Steve’s collection alone.  Professional Archaeologists have written none of these, or any other, Civil War reference books. Hunters,  fishermen, arrowhead collectors, fossil hunters, relic hunters, gold prospectors, historians, museums, and amateur archaeologists, as well as divers, have a common interest in using our public lands and waters. Being amateur archaeologists or historians does not mean that we are lesser people, it just means that we are not paid. We don’t want grants or contracts as the professionals try to get for anything they do. Amateurs are good. The best golfer in history was an  amateur. His name was Bobby Jones and he golfed for love of the game, not money. We, the public, use our waters for love, not money. SB-81 is supported by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Indian Tribes.

We need your individual support to help us pass this bill. 

Email we received this week: 

Steve, another barrage of emails have gone out around the state today to legislators about our bill. I have had four committee members contact me and ask that we not even bring our bill up for a vote in committee because of such strong opposition they are hearing. We really need to get some people contacting their legislators to support this or I am afraid it will be soundly defeated in a committee vote.

Please take a moment and contact ALL Senators and Representatives and ask them to Support SB-81. Here are their email addresses that you can copy and paste into your email client:



If that doesn’t work for you, you can find their contact info on these pages:

Please Support SB-81
Save our lost history
Steve, Forrest and Spencer Phillips
Southern Skin Diver Supply
205-595-3052 work
205-672-9310 home

Here are a some additional links from the past that relate to this issue:

Historical Commission Letter to the Alabama Gun Collectors Association

Archaeology Heist By Professional Archaeologists Revealed In Alabama with
Stolen Artifacts Index



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