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A paleontologist must have a valid paleontological resource use permit before collecting or disturbing fossil resources on BLM-administered lands.  Casual collecting (also called hobby collecting) of certain common invertebrate and plant fossils on BLM-administered lands is allowable without a permit. For more information about casual collecting, click here

What qualifications must I have in order to receive a permit?

According to BLM policy handbook 8270-1 (chapter IV), the applicant must have received formal education and professional instruction in a field of paleontology equivalent to a Graduate Degree; and

  • must demonstrate past experience in collecting, analyzing, and reporting paleontological data, similar to the type and scope of work proposed in the application.
  • must demonstrate past experience in planning, equipping, staffing, organizing, and supervising crews performing work that is proposed in the application.
  • must demonstrate experience in carrying out paleontological projects to completion as evidenced by theses, research reports, scientific papers and similar documents.
  • must provide a valid and current repository agreement with a Federally approved museum repository.

Do I need a permit for researching and/or collecting invertebrate or plant fossils?

Casual collecting is allowed under BLM policy and is further authorized by the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA).

Casual collecting in Section 6301(1) of PRPA means "the collecting of a reasonable amount of common invertebrate and plant paleontological resources for non-commercial personal use, either by surface collection or the use of non-powered hand tools resulting in only negligible disturbance to the Earth's surface and other resources."

Research, however, is different than casual collecting. If you plan to do research on invertebrate and/or plant fossils you may need a permit.  A permit will lend legitimacy to your work, allow you to exceed normal collection quotas, and allow the BLM to manage important paleontological resources using scientific principles and expertise.  If the Bureau does not know where you are researching and what you're collecting it will not be able to preserve and protect the resource that scientists need to research.  Please contact the BLM for more information.

Can I place a mining claim on fossil resources?

Fossilized remains of prehistoric animals have been determined to be surface estate and are not a mineral resource, therefore mining claims may not be placed upon them (see Public Law 84-167).  For mining inquiries please check with the BLM minerals program.

Permit Types 

Paleontological research and surface collection of fossils that results in the disturbance of less than one square meter of rock or soil.


Systematic collection of fossils that results in soil or rock disturbance exceeding one square meter in area.



Click here to apply for a permitAnnual Reports


 Consulting Permit


Survey and collection of paleontological resources by a consulting paleontologist in anticipation or in conjunction with a land-use action (such as mining, trenching, road-building, or land-tenure adjustment).

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