Archaeological looters dig through ancient Indian pueblos, graves of Native Americans and historic sites on public lands across the nation to steal artifacts for private collections or for sale. Theft and vandalism of cultural resources leads to the loss of cultural artifacts and destroys valuable scientific information that could be helpful in analyzing the culture of the people who lived at these sites.
Theft or disturbance of archaeological resources, including surface collection of arrowheads, is against the law. BLM Rangers, Special Agents and archaeologists work closely together to monitor and protect your cultural resources. You can also help!
A small but growing number of citizens are assisting archaeologists to monitor and protect these resources. Site Steward Volunteers are active in at least eight states throughout the western United States and in some eastern states as well. From programs established by state legislation to those organized at the grass roots level, they all share a common goal - to stop vandalism and theft and create a record of what exists on public lands.
In addition to its archaeological and historical resources, Colorado is home to several internationally-known paleontological quarries. By studying the fossils here, paleontologists can answer questions of global and regional climate change and investigate the anatomical and evolutionary changes of life over time.
Paleontological resources are also protected by law. Paleontological resource preservation became stronger with the passage of the “Paleontological Resources Preservation Act” as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009. The PRPA/OPLA included provisions to ensure that the public may continue to collect a reasonable amount of common invertebrate and plant fossils on public land without a permit. The act does not change the BLM’s long-standing policy prohibiting the bartering or selling of casually collected fossils. Permits are required to conduct scientific inquiry and collect vertebrate fossils and other significant paleontological resources from public lands. Any paleontological resources collected under permit from public lands remain U.S. government property and must be curated in an approved facility where they will be available for scientific research and public education.
The PRPA/OPLA includes civil penalties for illegal theft and vandalism of paleontological resources from public lands and provides stiffer penalties for criminal theft and vandalism. Exact locations of fossil localities, unless interpreted for the public or of a casual collecting nature (common invertebrate and plant fossils), are also protected by this act and should not be divulged without written release by the affected government office. Casual collection of common invertebrate and plant fossils (not vertebrate fossils) is allowed on most, but not all BLM lands. Please check with the local field office to be sure the area allows for this use.
The act also provides the BLM with the authority to offer rewards to the public who help us prosecute illegal activities on public lands.