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Hobby Collecting

Visitors to public lands are welcome to collect reasonable amounts of common invertebrate, such as ammonites and trilobites, and common plant fossils, such as leaf impressions and cones, without a BLM permit. 

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Public Law 111-011.  P.L. 111-011, Title VI, Subtitle D on Paleontological Resources Preservation (known by its popular name as the PRPA) is the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) new authority to collect paleontological resources or fossils from public lands either with or without a permit.

The PRPA provides for casual collecting of reasonable amounts of common invertebrate and plant fossils from public lands for personal use without a permit. 

Casual collecting as defined in 16 U.S.C. 470aaa(1) 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.”

The PRPA requires that the Secretary develop regulations implementing the legislation and will include defining certain commonly used terms.   

On June 11, 2012, the BLM re-issued an instruction memorandum, IM 2012-140, on collecting paleontological resources under the PRPA, including casual collecting of common invertebrate and plant paleontological resources and collecting under a paleontological resources use permit.

The PRPA does not change BLM’s requirement for issuance of a paleontological resources use permit for the collection of vertebrate and other paleontological resources of paleontological interest by qualified researchers.

Commercial collection of any type of fossil from Federal lands is not allowed, except for petrified wood which was designated a mineral material by Congress in 1962, and therefore, is salable under the Mineral Materials Act (43 CFR 3600.)

Comprehensive information about paleontological resources use permits can be found on the BLM Utah Paleontological Permitting website.  If you have questions about collecting fossils on public lands, please contact your local BLM State Office.  

In addition, an instruction memorandum was issued on June 11, 2012, IM 2012-141, that explains the confidentiality of paleontological locality information under the PRPA and FOIA.


Petrified wood can be collected too for personal use — up to 25 pounds each day, plus one piece, but no more than 250 pounds in any calendar year (43 CFR 3622). These materials must be for your personal collection and cannot be sold or traded.

Note that some lands may be closed to hobby or casual collecting of fossils, so always check in with the local BLM office in the area you would like to collect from.  On private lands, fossils may only be collected with the permission of the landowner. 

Brochure: Fossils on America's Public Lands

Fossil Collection Brochure

Brochure: A New Paleontology Law

OPLMA - PRP Brochure

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