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Rockhounding on Public Land

Click here to download our rockhounding brochure

Rockhounding is a permitted recreational activity 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.

Rock hounds are allowed to collect rocks found on the surface of the ground. Power equipment or explosives may not be used for excavation or to collect materials or wood without written authorization from the appropriate BLM office.

The Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 prohibits the excavation, taking, or destruction of any historic or prehistoric site or any object of antiquity on lands under federal jurisdiction. Vertebrate and other fossils of "recognized scientific interest" also are protected.

The BLM requires permits for the collection of certain fossils. Permits are granted only to qualified institutions for bonafide scientific research and are not issued to casual recreationists, even though they may have an interest in fossils.

Sites having apparent scientific or historic potential, such as cabins, prehistoric campsites, buffalo jumps, fossil beds, etc., should be reported to the nearest BLM office. They will then be evaluated by a archaeological or paleontological specialist.

We have provided an index to our Surface/Mineral Management maps. The cost of each map is $4. These maps will reflect federal ownership of both surface and subsurface estates. These maps will not show where you might find petrified wood, agates, geodes, sapphires or other rockhounding items. Many of the areas have unpatented or private mining claims on or near them. Always ask permission before crossing or entering upon private property.

Specific information on the geology of Montana and the distribution of various minerals is available from geologists in our local BLM offices. A map showing BLM office boundaries and locations is available on-line. You may also want to contact the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Helena, Montana: U.S. Forest Service, Missoula, Montana; Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Butte Montana; and local universities. Local rock shops are an excellent resource for collectors. The Rock Hound's Guide to Montana (available at your local bookstore) has a listing of the shops, as well as other useful information.

An objective of the BLM is to promote harmony in balancing the many uses of the federal lands. As a rockhound, you have room to roam in enjoying your hobby but are requested to respect all natural resources and the interests others have in them.