The study of fossilized remains, traces or imprints of organisms preserved in or on the Earth’s crust. Through careful collection and study of fossils we can learn the stories of origins and endings—life, death and change—played out over 3.5 billion years of the Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history.
Managing our Paleontological Resources:
IT is the policy of BLM to manage paleontological resources for scientific, educational, and recreational values, and to mitigate adverse impacts to them. In order to manage fossils taken from the land and to encourage scientific research, the BLM has strict laws which regulate what types of fossils are collected on BLM land, how much is collected, and who is allowed to collect. Casual, non-commercial collection of common invertebrate and plant paleontological resources from BLM public lands is allowable without a permit. However, only a reasonable amount of specimens can be collected, and collection techniques cannot cause disturbance to the surface or to other natural or cultural resources. Vertebrate fossils may only be collected by qualified researchers with a permit due to their relative rarity and scientific importance. Vertebrate fossils include bones, teeth, footprints, burrows, and other traces of activity. Permit applicants must be able to show a sufficient level of training and experience. In addition, all vertebrate fossils collected under a permit must be curated in an approved repository. Click here to discover more about collecting fossils on BLM land. Click here to be redirected to the permitting page.
You can help the BLM preserve paleontological resources by leaving fossils as you found them to allow others to enjoy. If you think a fossil or track may be unique and of scientific interest, or may be damaged or destroyed, do not collect. Important information may be lost. Please report your finding and the location to the nearest BLM office. This way, land managers can alert professional scientists to ensure that the paleontological resources are properly recorded and cared for.
Prohibited Acts and Penalties:
Theft and vandalism of publicly owned paleontological resources results in a loss to all of the people of the United States. Civil penalties include fines based on the value of the paleontological resource and damage to the fossil as well as to the land. Criminal penalties include fines or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both.