Rockhounding on Public Land
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What Cannot be Collected on Public Lands?
Vertebrate fossils are those with backbones. Vertebrate fossils, such as dinosaurs, turtles, mammals and fish, cannot be collected from public lands except by permit only! These permits are issued by the Secretary of the Interior specifically to properly accredited museums, universities and other institutions or their representatives.
Indian Artifacts and Ruins
In your explorations of the public lands, by all means enjoy and appreciate the wealth of our nation's cultural heritage. Wonder at the beauty and craftsmanship found in structures and artifacts. Imagine the lives led by those who lived here before us, and learn. But, please, show respect for those early people, and leave everything in its place. All historic and prehistoric remains found on public lands are protected by law. Report new or unusual finds (including human skeletal remains) to the nearest BLM office.
Under no circumstances will artifacts of any kind, including arrowheads, points, feathers, whole or broken pots, stone tools, basketry, or even old bottles be distributed or removed from their location on public lands. Human remains, and all materials associated with human remains, may not be disturbed or removed from public lands. The commercial use, sale, or barter of human remains or artifacts of any kind taken from public lands is illegal and punishable by law.
Historic and prehistoric remains on federal (public) lands have been protected by law since 1906. The Preservation of American Antiquities Act of 1906 provides for the protection of Indian ruins, stating that a person may not, without permission, "appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object on antiquity" on lands under Federal government control. Regulations implemented under the authority of The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) also prohibit disturbance of these resources (43 Code of Federal Regulations Part 8365.1-4(a)). Historic and archeological resources 50 years old or older are covered by these two laws.
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA), provides civil and criminal penalties for excavation, destruction, vandalism, or removal of archeological resources (historic and prehistoric) from public lands. Criminal penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and/or five years in prison are possible upon conviction. Civil or criminal damages may also be assessed, based on the archaeological value, cost of restoration and repair value of the damaged or stolen cultural materials. ARPA also contains provisions for forfeiture of vehicles and other personal property used in violations of ARPA.
ARPA also provides for payment of rewards for information leading to convictions.
To report illegal collecting or vandalism call, 1-503-808-6596.
Please remember not to leave any modern day artifacts or trash at archaeological or historic sites; take only photographs and leave only footprints on designated paths.
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.
Material such as agate, chert, jasper, petrified wood, obsidian, cinders and other volcanic products are generally 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.