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HELENA — A full panel of a federal appeals court will hear arguments in a case to determine whether dinosaur fossils are part of a property's surface estate or mineral estate in the case of split ownership.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week voted to rehear the case brought over valuable fossils uncovered in central Montana.

A Montana judge initially ruled the fossils were part of the surface estate and belonged to Mary Ann and Lige Murray. But a split three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled the fossils were part of the mineral estate mostly retained by the previous owners.

A rehearing date has not been set.

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State lawmakers recently passed a bill stating fossils are part of the surface estate. It's been sent to Gov. Steve Bullock.

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