HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An appeals court has ruled dinosaur fossils worth millions of dollars unearthed on an eastern Montana ranch belong to the owners of the land's surface rights.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a 2016 ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters that found dinosaur fossils were part of the surface estate, not the mineral estate.

The owners of the mineral rights appealed.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit overturned Watters' ruling in 2018, but Mary Ann and Lige Murray asked for a larger panel to hear the case.

After a divided Montana's Supreme Court ruled fossils are not minerals, the 9th Circuit upheld Watters' ruling.

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