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Dueling dinosaurs

Clayton Phipps of Brusett, Montana, poses for a picture in 2013 with one of the two "dueling dinosaurs" he discovered on a Montana ranch in 2006. Ownership of the fossils are the subject of a legal battle over whether they are part of a property's surface rights or mineral rights. The nearly complete skeletons were put up for auction in New York in 2013, but bidding topped out at $5.5 million, failing to meet the reserve price. 

The Montana House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill saying fossils are part of a property's surface estate and not the mineral estate.

Democratic Rep. Brad Hamlett's bill passed 96-0 on Monday and advances to the Senate.

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The bill was prompted by a legal dispute between the owners of a central Montana ranch and the land's mineral rights owners over who owns dinosaur fossils worth millions of dollars unearthed there. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruled that the fossils are part of the mineral estate.

Ranch owners Mary Ann and Lige Murray are asking for the full 9th Circuit to hear the case or remand it back to the Montana Supreme Court to make a decision. The bill would not affect their case.

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