Rockhounding is one of many recreational pursuits on 14.5 million acres of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in California. The collecting of small, non-commercial quantities of rocks by rockhounds is allowed free of charge on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Commercial collecting for the purpose of sale or barter is not allowed without special authorization. Rockhounds may use hand tools such as shovels and picks, but must not use explosives or power equipment for excavation.
Rockhounds are welcome to collect limited amounts of rocks, minerals, and gemstones from most federal lands, but there are some exceptions. Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes such as outstanding natural areas, research natural areas, recreation sites, national historic sites, etc. Other lands are not open to collecting due to the presence of mining claims. The local BLM offices can provide you with information about available collecting areas and those areas that are closed to rockhounding including any fire or vehicle use restrictions.
Petrified wood is available for collection on a free use basis in limited quantities as long as the collection is for personal, non-commercial purposes. According to Federal regulations (43 CFR 3622), free use collection weights are limited to 25 pounds plus one piece per day, not to exceed 250 pounds in one calendar year, and no specimen greater than 250 pounds may be collected without a special permit. The petrified wood must be for personal use only, and shall not be sold or bartered to commercial dealers. A material sale contract must be obtained from a BLM Field Office for collection of more than 250 pounds a year, or for commercial use. Mining claims may not be staked for petrified wood.
HISTORIC ARTIFACTS AND FOSSILS
The Antiquities Act of 1906, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 prohibit the excavation, collection or destruction of any archaeological materials (including fossils) located on lands under federal jurisdiction. The indiscriminate removal of artifacts and certain fossils could affect scientific and educational uses of public lands, creating unfortunate gaps in scientific understanding. Petroglyphs, human remains, dwellings, and artifacts of Native American cultures are protected by law because they are integral to the preservation of the cultural heritage of these ongoing traditions and also may provide important information concerning populations who lived here long ago. For more information on the collection of fossils, please download the following brochure "They Walked Here Long Ago" or visit http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/CRM/paleontology.html.
ROCKHOUNDING ON MINING CLAIMS
Rockhounding on mining claims is not advised without the mining claimant's consent because the claimant has a legal right to the minerals on the claim, including gemstones. Most mining claims can usually be identified in the field by claim posts or markers, but you should contact a local BLM office to find out which areas have mining claims. Also, it is illegal for a mining claimant to charge fees to the public for recreational use of a mining claim, such as rock collecting, unless they have first obtained a Special Recreational Permit or other authorization from the local field office of the BLM.
Material such as agate, chert; jasper, petrified wood, obsidian, cinders and other volcanic products are not considered locatable under the 1872 Mining Law. Most commonly collected rocks and minerals are not subject to mining claim location even though people occasionally stake claims for these minerals anyway. The mere fact that some stones may be cut and polished does not give them a distinct or special value to make them locatable.
Collecting rocks for landscaping and other personal uses is allowed without a permit, as long as the use is non-commercial and no mechanized equipment is used (other than a car or pickup truck). Part 8365 of Title 43 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) provide for the collecting of "reasonable quantities" of rocks, minerals, semiprecious gemstones, and invertebrate and plant fossils of non-scientific importance, for personal use. With respect to rockhound material, the BLM Palm Springs South Coast Field Office considers a "reasonable quantity" to be not more than can be carried in one 5-gallon bucket per day per person, with a total limit of 250 pounds per year. The material must be for personal use only and shall not be sold or bartered to commercial dealers.
Bureau of Land Management
Palm Springs - South Coast Field Office
1201 Bird Center Drive
Palm Springs, California 92262
Phone: (760) 833-7100
Fax: (760) 833-7199
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., M-F
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Location of Field Office