California Desert District

Frequently Asked Questions

For more information please visit the California Public Room

Where can I get a map showing BLM land?

Surface Management Maps for Southern California are available for purchase in the district office and in the field offices for $4 each. The topographical maps show, by color-coding, where BLM lands are located. The Surface Management Map Index can be used to identify which map is necessary for purchase. Central and Northern California maps can be ordered over the phone through the state office at (916) 978-4400. Land status information can also be obtained from the Geocommunicator database. It is generalized, but it does produce interactive maps.

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Where can I go target shooting?

Target shooting is allowed on public lands. Make sure you are on public land by obtaining a Surface Management Map before going out to shoot.
  • BLM sign: Shooters - No littering, Remove all targets and casings. Help keep your public lands clean.Shooting is prohibited within one mile of all campgrounds and developed recreation sites; within 150 yards of any man-made structure, or within 100 yards of any roadway. Since it is prohibited to drive that far off of existing roads, you must be prepared to safely hike to your shooting location.
  • Proper Access to public lands must be through public roads.  Crossing private lands to access public lands is not permitted unless you first obtain permission from the private landowner.
  • Find a safe location with a backdrop. An area with a hillside directly behind the target is ideal. Do not attach your targets to living plants or place targets up against rocks, plants, or solid objects. Shots fired across open desert can travel more than a mile. Shooting across a road, trail, or wash is not permitted. Shooting from a vehicle is not permitted.
  • Always pick up and remove targets, empty shells, and any other debris after you have finished. You can be cited for littering if you leave any debris; for this reason, in the desert region, you are not allowed to use clay pigeons as targets. Even the so-called “biodegradable” clay targets remain indefinitely in the dry, fragile landscape of the desert.
  • Contact the field office that has jurisdiction over the area where you would like to shoot. The field office will have the most up to date information about the land.

*San Bernardino County has specific shooting ordinances. Visit the Barstow Field Office shooting website for more information.

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Where can I go hunting?

Hunting is allowed on public lands. You must have a valid hunting license and follow the state of California’s hunting regulations. This information can be found on the California Department of Fish and Game website. For information on areas which may support the best populations of game animals visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service website. Obtaining a Surface Management Map of the area you intend to hunt will insure you are on public land. Contact the field office that has jurisdiction over the area where you would like to hunt. The field office will have the most up to date information about the land.

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 Where can I get a campfire permit?

If you create a campfire of any kind on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management you will need a campfire permit. Campfire permits are free of charge, and may be obtained from any BLM office or fire station in California. You may also obtain campfire permits from the US Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

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Where can I get a Recreational Pass? (Annual, Senior, Access)

The interagency recreational pass is available in the district office and the field offices. We offer an annual pass and two lifetime passes. For more information you can also visit the US Forest Service and the USGS to purchase the pass online. Check out the website that will help you find accessible recreational areas with the passes.

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Where can I access public land records?

Master Title Plats are the foundation of our land records. You can find Master Title Plats (MTPs), Oil and Gas Plats, Leasable Resources Plat, and Historical Index (HI) pages including index pages to acquired lands and Mineral Locations and Contests. These are the documents that used to be microfilmed.
LR2000 provides reports on BLM land and mineral use authorizations for oil, gas, and geothermal leasing, rights-of-ways, coal and other mineral development, land and mineral title, mining claims, withdrawals, classifications, and more on federal lands or on federal mineral estate.
GLO Records provides live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, including image access to more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present. We also have images related to survey plats and field notes, dating back to 1810.

Cadastral Survey plats, Mineral Surveys or Field Notes are not yet available online and can be obtained on microfilm in the district office.

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Can I get free land? Is there land for sale?

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 repealed homesteading laws (free land). Although homesteading is a thing of the past, the BLM has classified some lands suitable for purchase by private citizens. These are lands that have been identified as unneeded by the federal government or as better utilized in private ownership. By law, these lands are made available for sale at no less than fair market value. The lands to be sold are typically small, isolated tracts; some have public roads leading to them and some do not. Our land is sold by the field office that has jurisdiction of the specific area. This website provides notices of upcoming sales.

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Where can I ride my off-highway vehicle?

OHV websites by field office:

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 Can I go rock hounding, gold panning, use a metal detector?

Rock hounding and recreational mining are permitted activities on public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  The usual rock hound materials, including agates and stones, may be collected in reasonable quantities for hobby use.  Petrified wood collection on BLM lands is limited to 25 pounds plus one piece per day to a maximum of 250 pounds per year.  Panning, sluicing, and suction dredging for gold may be arranged through permit at certain areas. Metal detecting is a recreational activity that people do to find coins, jewelry, and precious metals.  Metal detecting is allowed on BLM lands as long as no artifacts are removed.

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 How do I adopt a Wild Horse or Burro?

  • Be at least 18 years of age (Parents or guardians may adopt a wild horse or burro and allow younger family members to care for the animal.)
  • Have no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals or for violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act
  • Demonstrate that you have adequate feed, water, and facilities to provide humane care for the number of animals requested
  • Show that you can provide a home for the adopted animal in the United States.

Check out the adoption schedule for more information.

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Camping Information

Dispersed Camping - Camping on public lands away from developed recreation facilities is referred to as "dispersed camping". Camping or engaging in any other recreational activity within 200 yards of a wildlife watering source is prohibited.

Dispersed camping is allowed on public lands in California for a period not to exceed 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days. The 28 day period begins when a camper initially occupies a specific location on public lands. The 14 day limit may be reached either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28 day period. After the 14th day of occupation, the camper must move outside of a 25 mile radius of the previous location until the 29th day since the initial occupation. The purpose of this special rule is to prevent damage to sensitive resources caused by continual use of any particular areas.

Most public lands in California are open to dispersed camping, as long as such use does not conflict with other authorized uses or occurs in areas posted "closed to camping," or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources. Contact the local field office for more information.

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 How to File a Mining Claim?

Step 1 – Know the exact location (“legal location”) of your claim.

Before you file a claim, you must know the exact location of your claims. This can be determined by obtaining a US Geological Survey 1:24,000 scale topographic map of the area you are interested in mining or prospecting. The reason that it is important to have these maps is that they show the federal legal land grid. On federal lands in the western United States, land is described by Township, Range and Section. This information is also available through the Earth Point website as a tool for Google Earth. In order to fill out BLM and US Forest Service forms and other required documents for mineral prospecting or for staking a claim you must know the legal location.
Step 2 – Determine the land status of the legal location.
Once you know the exact location of the place you want to mine or prospect, you can use BLM’s Surface Management Maps to determine the land status. You may also utilize Gecommunicator. It is an interactive map viewer that allows you to search and display most of the non-Alaska land and mineral, status, and mining claims records along with a variety of reference maps including surface management agency boundaries, T/R/Sec/Aliquot, rivers, roads, topo maps, and imagery.
Step 3 – Is the land open or closed to mineral entry?
If the land on which you want to stake a claim is BLM or Forest Service land, it is important to know whether or not this government land is open to mining and prospecting. Closures to mining activity are shown and described in local BLM and USFS land use planning documents and on some BLM or USGS maps. To obtain this information contact the BLM or USFS field Office.
Step 4 – Are there active or inactive claims in the area?
If the land you want to prospect is on BLM or USFS land and that land is open to mining (“mineral entry”), the next thing you will want to know is if there are any active claims on that land. Miners with active claims are supposed to place claim markers on their claims and have copies of their claim documents in the discovery claim marker for each claim. But sometimes cows or people destroy the claim discovery (and corner) markers. So just because you see no claim markers does NOT mean that there is not an active claim in the area. 
County Assessor’s offices are the official offices of record for all federal mining claims. Claimants file their claims with the counties in which the claim is located (e.g. “staked”). Then they send a certified copy of the recorded claim to the BLM office in Sacramento. That correspondence has to include the county stamp showing the date and time the claim documents were filed at the County Recorder’s Office. When BLM gets the copy of the recorded claim documents, (with the county stamp) they assign a case number to the claim. This is called the “CAMC number”. That stands for “California Mining Claim Number”.
Option 1:
To see if there is a claim on the land upon which you want to prospect, you need to know
the county book and page number or
the BLM case number
Option 2:
If you do not know the county book and page number, or the BLM case number, you can
also get information about whether or not a claim is active if you know:
the legal location (Township, Range, Section, Quarter Section) of the area you want to explore for minerals, or
the name of the claim, or
the name of the claimant (s)
With this information you can search the LR2000 database for information on the claim. It should be able to provide you with the BLM case number and in some cases the County book and page number that are in the BLM database.
Option 3:
If you are unable to do either option, but have needed information you can call the BLM State Office Public Room at 916-978-4400 and ask to speak to a technician about federal mining claim records.
Step 5 – Staking (“locating”) and Filing Mining Claims
The federal law governing locatable minerals is the General Mining Law of 1872 (May 10, 1872), which declared all valuable mineral deposits in land belonging to the United States to be free and open to exploration and purchase. The regulations for staking mining claims are found at 43 CFR 3832 to 3839.

After you make a discovery of a valuable mineral deposit, you can file a claim on that discovery if the land is open to mineral entry (e.g. new claims are allowed). You file your claim at the county recorder’s office in the county where the discovery was made. Then you send a certified copy of that filing to State Office BLM in Sacramento. This is the State’s website on FAQ and information on fees.

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What about patented claims?

Patented mining claims are now private land with private minerals. The BLM has no authority to manage these lands. To find out about patented lands, you can get the patent number from the BLM Master Title Plats (MTP).

You have to know the meridian, township and range numbers to use this web site. When you enter the information, the web site will bring up a printable pdf file for that township. From the MTP you can obtain the patent number. Now, using that number, you can go to the LR2000 website to get additional information about the patent. For copies of the original patent documents, contact the BLM State Office at 916-978-4400 with the legal location and patent number of the patent of interest to you.

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Bureau of Land Management
California Desert District
22835 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos
Moreno Valley, CA 92553
Phone: (951) 697-5200
Fax: (951) 697-5299
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., M-F
Contact us by Email