The B.C. government is under fire from scientists who say that priceless fossils near Cache Creek aren't being protected.

The McAbee Fossil Beds are made up of shale from an ancient lake, and contain a record of life in the region dating back 50 million years.

But the public is allowed inside the area to dig for fossils, and scientists say that more protection is needed for the valuable information locked inside the rocks.

"Having the public come in and break it up is inappropriate," Bruce Archibald, a paleontologist at Simon Fraser University, told CTV News.

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta says he's confident that a government agreement ensures no important fossil material is lost.

"They don't get to take that home. That's collected and sent off for further research, so we see it as a tourism opportunity," Ranta said.

But scientists like Archibald believe that agreement has been ignored, and that parts of the same shale deposit have been mined for use as cat litter.

"Other provinces do a wonderful job of protecting their paleontological sites. Alberta is an obvious one -- they do a great job. But every province except British Columbia, my understanding is, has these protections in place," Archibald said.

The minister responsible says there has been consultation to improve fossil protection.

"We have launched a comprehensive consultation in order to make sure that we do have the tools and we use them correctly to protect fossil sites in British Columbia, and we've done so in a number of cases," Minister of Agriculture and Lands Steve Thomson said.

But Archibald says he's still waiting for proper protection to be put into place.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat