Can You Take Rocks, Minerals and Precious Stones From Public Land? (BLM)

rockhounding on public BLM land faq

The information on this page is taken directly from the Bureau of Land Management’s website. Be sure to visit the site to make sure that the information given here is current and up to date.

Are You Allowed To Take Rocks and Minerals From Public Land?

One of the awesome things about living in the United States is that millions of square miles has been set aside for the public to enjoy. This designated area is cared for and overseen by The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM.

The mission of the BLM is to, “Sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

The BLM mission statement is true for all people who love and enjoy the outdoors, including rockhounds like you and I!

So Can I Take Rocks and Minerals From Public Lands?

The first thing to remember is to always, always be 100% sure who’s property you’re on. The last thing you want to do is get caught trespassing on private property or stumble onto a private mining claim when you think you are on public land.

Otherwise, for the most part, yes. You can take rocks and minerals from public lands. But there are a number of things that you need to keep in mind. For example, you can only collect rocks on BLM lands if it’s for personal use and not used to sell.

The other thing to remember is that there are mining claims on BLM land. It’s important to know how to identify and avoid these claims.

How Much Are You Allowed To Take?

The Bureau of Land Management says that unless otherwise marked or posted, you are allowed to take up to 25 lbs of rocks, minerals and semi-precious stones home with you. They also mention that you can only keep up to 250 lbs of rock specimens per year.

Keep reading to learn more about the rules and regulations of keeping rocks and minerals on public land.

According to the BLM website:

Rocks, minerals, and semiprecious gemstones may be collected on public lands managed by the BLM without charge or permit as long as:

  1. The specimens are for personal use and are not collected for commercial purposes or bartered to commercial dealers.
  2. You may collect reasonable amounts of specimens. In Arizona, the BLM sets the “reasonable” limits for personal use as up to 25 pounds per day, plus one piece, with a total limit of 250 pounds per year. These limits are for mineral specimens, common invertebrate fossils, semiprecious gemstones, other rock, and petrified wood.
  3. A group of people does not pool their yearly allotment to collect a piece larger than 250 pounds of either rockhounding specimens or petrified wood.
  4. Collection does not occur in developed recreation sites or areas, unless designated as a rockhounding area by BLM.
  5. Collection is not prohibited or restricted and posted.
  6. Collection, excavation or removal are not aided with motorized or mechanical devices, including heavy equipment or explosives. Metal detectors are acceptable, with the exception of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
  7. No undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands occurs during the removal of rock, minerals, or gemstones.
  8. For pieces of petrified wood heavier than 250 pounds or situation not covered here, please contact your local BLM office.
  9. If you wish to obtain more than 250 pounds of rock in a year, please visit the local BLM office to arrange to purchase it.

Where Are BLM Lands Located?

Not sure if there are BLM lands in your area? This interactive map is a great tool to help you locate BLM lands.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following FAQ is taken directly from the BLM website and BLM FAQ pdf which can be found here.

1. May members of the public collect rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones on public lands managed by the BLM?

Generally, yes. BLM’s regulations (43 CFR 8365.1- 5(b)(2)) generally allow members of the public to collect reasonable amounts of nonrenewable resources such as rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones for noncommercial purposes on BLM-managed public lands. Noncommercial means that the collector is not selling the items for a business or financial gain. Such collection is generally not allowed, however, in certain areas, such as on developed recreation sites, where there are active mining claims or other authorized mineral uses, or on lands where the mineral estate is owned privately. Contact your local BLM office regarding applicable laws, policies or resource management restrictions that may limit or prohibit rock collection for noncommercial purposes.

2. Do members of the public need a permit to collect rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones on public lands managed by the BLM?

Generally, no. A permit is generally not required to collect reasonable amounts of rocks, mineral
specimens, and semiprecious gemstones on public lands for noncommercial purposes. However,
permits may be necessary in certain instances, especially if it would involve use of certain equipment, cause more than negligible surface disturbance, or involve camping or occupying the public lands for longer than is posted for the public lands in question.

3. May the BLM restrict or prohibit the collection of rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones on public lands?


Yes. While 43 CFR 8365.1-5(b)(2) generally authorizes members of the public to collect reasonable amounts of rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones for noncommercial purposes, the BLM may close or limit collection in specific areas in accordance with applicable law, including, but not limited to, through the BLM’s land use planning process. The collection of rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones is prohibited in areas that the BLM formally closes to that activity.

4. What are the penalties associated with collecting rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones on public lands managed by the BLM where such activity is prohibited?

Under BLM regulations (43 CFR 8360.0-7), a person who collects rocks, mineral specimens, or
semiprecious gemstones on public lands where such activity is prohibited may be subject to criminal or civil penalties.

5. May members of the public collect rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones in National Monuments?

Generally, yes. Members of the public may generally collect reasonable amounts of rocks, mineral
specimens, and semiprecious gemstones on public lands located within national monuments for
noncommercial purposes (as allowed under 43 CFR 8365.1-5(b)(2)). However, members of the
public may be prohibited from collecting rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gemstones
that are specifically identified as monument objects in the enabling legislation or presidential
proclamation designating the national monument, land use plans, or other appropriate processes
such as temporary area closures.

6. May members of the public collect rocks, mineral specimens, and semiprecious gems in BLM Wilderness or other specially designated areas?

Generally, yes. Members of the public may generally collect reasonable amounts of rocks and minerals on public lands located within BLM wilderness areas for noncommercial purposes. However, in designated wilderness, collection methods are limited to non-motorized hand tools, may only cause minimal surface disturbance and must conform to the applicable management plan. For other areas designated for special management by Congress or in a BLM land use plan, collection may be limited by applicable laws or the management plan. Contact your local BLM office regarding applicable laws, policies or resource management restrictions that may limit or prohibit rock collection for noncommercial purposes.

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