New Wrinkle in New Mexico Treasure Hunt

New Mexico authorities say no digging without a permit

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Apr 6, 2013 3:39 PM CDT

(Newser) – A collection of gold and jewels that a retired Santa Fe art dealer says he stashed in the mountains north of Santa Fe has generated so much interest from amateur treasure hunters that some have put their lives in jeopardy or been cited for illegally digging on public lands. But authorities are warning people about more than being careful and following the law. They also note finders may not be keepers.

"If this treasure is buried, you would need to dig for it. And you can't dig anywhere in a national forest without a permit," said Bruce Hill, spokesman for the Santa Fe National Forest. "Even if it is not buried and it is just placed somewhere it becomes public domain." Ditto for state lands, according to a Department of Game and Fish spokesman. The art dealer, Forrest Fenn, was asked if he had considered land rights before hiding the chest: "I'm staying out of those discussions, except to say it may be fun to redefine some of the terms," Fenn said in the email.

Should treasure-hunters be allowed to keep their gold?
Should treasure-hunters be allowed to keep their gold?   (Shutterstock)
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