Warning! Disclaimer! These articles are provided as a courtesy and are for general information ONLY!!!!! It is YOUR OWN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to check for updates and changes to regulations!
Rules of the Rockhound - by James Hutchinson
Most of the ground that we would collect on belongs to a government agency of some form, and many times there are overlapping and contradicting rules covering a property at city, county, state, and federal levels. For those times we are collecting on private property, we still have to follow some common sense rules, as well imposed regulations. So it's always best to be sure we fully understand the rules, regulations, and laws for the areas we intend to collect minerals. For private lands, you will need to contact the property owner. Most timber farms and farming properties maintain policies depending on the property, so always find and contact the property owner if not government land. For BLM lands, you will find the most information thru the BLM web pages for Washington and Oregon. http://www.blm.gov/or/index.php
As each area may have differing minerals, BLM rules are defined for each given area. Each area may be known for yielding specific materials and will have special rules for each material. Include a trip to the BLM office nearest the collecting area. You will find maps, handouts, and other great information for rockhounders. Most will be printed with simple-to-follow rules on how much of various minerals you can collect. Special closures may only be known to the BLM office closest to your destination as well. And of course, many of the staffers will have plenty of stories to tell of favorite places to find just that shade of agate you want more then anything else. A nice summary of the BLM rules for Rules of the Rockhound Page 1 of 7 rockhounding from various pages is: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfpdnsdv_23fbz54rgj 11/12/2009
GENERAL INFORMATION: Rockhounding is one of many recreational pursuits on millions acres of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Collecting small, non-commercial quantities of rock by rockhounds is allowed free of charge on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Commercial collecting for the purpose of sale or barter is not allowed without special authorization. Rockhounds may use hand tools such as shovels and picks, but must not use explosives or power equipment for excavation.
Rockhounds are welcome to collect limited amounts of rocks, minerals, and gemstones from most federal lands, but there are some exceptions. Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes such as outstanding natural areas, research natural areas, recreation sites, national historic sites, etc. Other lands are not open to collecting due to the presence of mining claims. The local BLM offices can provide you with information about available collecting areas and those areas that are closed to rockhounding including any fire or vehicle use restrictions.
PETRIFIED WOOD: Petrified wood is available for collection on a free use basis in limited quantities as long as the collection is for personal, non-commercial purposes. According to Federal regulations (43 CFR 3622), free use collection weights are limited to 25 pounds plus one piece per day, not to exceed 250 pounds in one calendar year, and no specimen greater than 250 pounds may be collected without a special permit. The petrified wood must be for personal use only, and shall not be sold or bartered to commercial dealers. A material sale contract must be obtained from a BLM Field Office for collection of more than 250 pounds a year, or for commercial use. Mining claims may not be staked for petrified wood.
HISTORIC ARTIFACTS AND FOSSILS: The Antiquities Act of 1906, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 prohibit the excavation, collection or destruction of any archaeological materials (including fossils) located on lands under federal jurisdiction. The indiscriminate removal of artifacts and certain fossils could affect scientific and educational uses of public lands creating unfortunate gaps in scientific understanding. Petroglyphs, human remains, dwellings, and artifacts of Native American cultures are protected by law because they are integral to the preservation of the cultural heritage of these ongoing traditions and also may provide important information concerning populations who lived here long ago.
MINING CLAIMS: 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 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. Rules of the Rockhound Page 2 of 7 http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfpdnsdv_23fbz54rgj 11/12/2009
The most important starting point is knowing where you are. It's always a great idea to never be lost anyhow, but be sure you know where you are all the time. In today's world of GPS, this can be as simple as just looking at your cellphone. Many times you will find yourself tracing a trail of promising pebbles up a stream and find you really are nowhere near where you thought you started. This is just part of being a rockhound with a focus that's looking for that pretty color green at your feet, and not the changing of the horizon. So prepare for that and learn to use maps, compass, and gps to help you keep track of where you are all the time. You will find that knowing this simple piece of data will help you keep track of everything you find as well. Record the locations where you find interesting materials, and keep track of your progress on a map.
Part of knowing where you are is preparing for the trip you're about to take. While many of us are well known for just pulling off the road any old place, most of us will plan a trip down to the details like a two-ton come along and chain hoists just in case we find that big jade boulder. So add to the planning a full understanding of the areas you plan on hunting. Search the internet for the area and mineral names you are hunting for. There are quite a few destinations that do not allow you to take ANYTHING from nature at all. These rules will be easy enough to find, and clearly laid out if you do a little research on where you are going. Never just trust your buddy's description of where you're going; spend some time to understand as much as you can first. Be sure that you understand who owns the land you are collecting on and what those owners rules are for collecting. Also check the local area governing rules for minerals and artifacts. Rules of the Rockhound Page 3 of 7 http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfpdnsdv_23fbz54rgj 11/12/2009
In all government cases, these rules are clearly posted and available. Sometimes, I may go so far as to hunt down and print the USGS forest service topo maps at the lowest scale, as well as Google provided satellite images of an area I plan on hunting. By this time, though, I have already understood whether I'm allowed to hunt there, that no existing mining claims are active, and finally, that no local rules or regulations prevent me from heading there. Most likely I am only heading there because I heard through the grapevine it had something I wanted, so I might search the internet for references to the location and what I am looking for. This will help me see if anyone else ever found it, and where they found it, helping me plan my trip, and just maybe load up all the things I will need, besides just that two-ton winch.
Once you get out where you want to collect, spend just a moment to find yourself. You might think you already know where you are, but when you get out the car, look around you, get your bearings, and understand just where you stand. Check the map, read your compass, or heck, just push a button on your GPS. If you do find something, you want to know where you found it anyhow, so making it a habit of understanding where you are is an important step to finding the source of that killer rock you just found, as well back to your car after dark cause you couldn't stop looking for that rocks source.
If you are on BLM land, you run into the issue of claims. A claim may be filed on many differing minerals locatable on federal properties. These claims must be clearly marked, and cannot be greater then 20 acres without marking, so keep your eyes open for stakes, marking pyramids, pylons, or heck, just about anything sticking up to yell 'Look at me!!'. While many claims you run into are invalid, its best to simply assume they are valid. You can research any active claim by knowing its location and checking with the BLM thru: http://www.blm.gov/lr2000/ http://www.geocommunicator.gov/GeoComm/landmin/home/landmin_mining-claims.shtm
However, just because the BLM does not list a claim as valid doesn't make the claim owner feel it's not valid. The person you run into out in the field will never be the BLM agent; he or she will always be the claim owner. Many times claim owners will file on minerals or materials that are not locatable in a claim, or file the claim improperly. But trying to explain this to someone in the field will never end out well. If you find claim markers, simply leave the claim area. If you run into claim owners, talk about the wonderful day, rock hounding, and the hope that you might just find some sample of some cool treasure you can take home to make it a perfect outing. Many times if you ask nice, they'll lead you to what they're hunting and give you a hunk of it to take home anyhow. Never sneak in and dig without permission; always contact the property or claim owner and gently and nicely ask if you can be permitted to have or buy a sample. I like to get them talking about how they found what they're hunting, because no rockhound tells you exactly what they did, but every one of us loves to tell that tale. :)
The most important thing to remember when encountering anyone while collecting-- always be nice. If you just picked something up in front of a claim owner, they may be quite agitated when they contact you. Be sure to remain calm and explain you had no idea, stay relaxed as you try and relax them, offer it back and continually explain you are only a rockhound hobbyist, and just out looking for cool stuff for next month's show and tell at your rock club. No harm, no foul, and btw, just what kinda cool stuff do you got anyhow? You will find that if you ensure they understand you are just someone out enjoying the fresh air, hunting for specimens, and interested in what they know, that nearly everyone will relax and give you a tour. And in the end... Your sample bag might just be fatter.
As you read through some of the rules on collecting materials from nearly all of the government controlled lands, you quickly see the concept of only taking samples. Many times people will approach sites to remove every bit of material their truck will hold, then to return over and over, taking out more loads of material until nothing remains. The site becomes a landscape of greedy destruction with pits, holes, and piles of crushed rocks or screened dirt littering a once beautiful place. When sites are treated this way, they become destroyed for everyone. This is why great sites become lost to us forever. It is also why the government rules all center around the idea of self-policed policies of minimal collection of samples, imposing daily and yearly limits with restriction on resale of material. These rules ask us to police ourselves, not our neighbors, but each of us, police ourselves. We must all first each start with ourselves.
If you do meet up with a government officer, make sure you first understand what branch he or she works for. If you thought you were collecting on BLM land and you suddenly find a stern faced Indian Sheriff standing in front of you, well.. you might just want to check where you thought you were collecting. The agents you run into will have a set of rules to enforce, but they can differ greatly depending on location, so you really need to read the rules for every collection area you plan to visit. While many might argue that there is a lot of overlap, I would remind the you won't know it overlaps until you read the rules. Always follow that most important rule: relax and stay calm. Nicely ask the agent to explain the regulation and problem, and repeat that you did not know and were simply out collecting, having a great day, and enjoying your hobby. Apologize and ask them to please explain what those rules mean and why they feel you broke them. Stay calm, and allow them to teach you, and they will normally forgive you.. at least your first time.
Of course, all of this counts on us collecting only samples for our own needs. While some of us mean to make a business from rocks, real rock hounds are doing it for the love of minerals. We not only love the look of them, but the why and how of them. We enjoy learning and teaching everything we can know about rocks. Rockhounds are a unique breed of people who don't mind being covered in mud, or hiking with 100 lbs of agate loaded in a backpack. All honest folk who love each other and the earth just as much as the rocks we strive to find.
These rules make common sense, and help us keep our hobby alive and active for generations to come. They count on us to not only respect the earth we hunt through, but respect the owners of the land we hunt on, and respect each other to not be greedy and share with everyone. While we all dream of finding the big one, that something that's so huge it changes everything forever, the love of what we do is what keeps us hunting, not the dream of finding the big one, just the dream of finding the next one. There will be no more next ones if we fail to follow some simple rules, working together to insure we leave no trace but still make those finds that cause us to shout WOOOHOOOO!
The Rockhound's Code of Ethics
I will keep informed on all laws, regulations and rules governing collecting on private lands and will observe them.
I will to the best of my ability, ascertain the boundary lines of property on which I plan to collect.
I will use no firearms or blasting materials in collecting areas.
I will cause no willful damage to property of any kind, such as fences, signs, buildings, etc.
I will leave all gates as found. I will build fires only in designated or safe places and will be certain they are completely extinguished before leaving the area.
I will discard no burning materials - matches, cigarettes, etc. I will fill all excavation holes which may be dangerous to livestock.
I will not contaminate wells, creeks, or other water supplies. I will cause no damage to collecting material and will take home only what I can reasonably use.
Rules of the Rockhound Page 6 of 7 http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfpdnsdv_23fbz54rgj 11/12/2009
I will support the Rockhound Project H.E.L.P. (Help Eliminate Litter Please) and will leave all collecting areas devoid of litter, regardless of how found.
I will cooperate with Field Trip Leaders and those in designated authority in all collecting areas.
I will report to my Club or Federation Officers, Bureau of Land Management, or other proper authorities, any deposit of petrified wood or other material on public lands which should be protected for the enjoyment of future generations and for public educational and scientific purposes.
I will appreciate and protect our heritage of Natural Resources.
I will observe the "Golden Rule", will use Good Outdoor Manners and will at all times conduct myself in a manner which will add to the stature and Public Image of Rockhounds everywhere.
Rockhounders Code of Ethics was borrowed from The Washington State Mineral Council, please visit http://www.mineralcouncil.org/Contact information for other land owners: Weyerhaeuser Hunter and Recreational Use Hotline for CALL: 866-636-6531 (WA) FOR INFORMATION ON CURRENT RESTRICTIONS LATEST FROM Weyerhaeuser http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/Company/Media/NewsReleases/NewsRelease? dcrId=09-07-28_WeyerhaeuserClosesallTreeFarmstoPublicAccessinWAandOR
Rules of the Rockhound Page 7 of 7 http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfpdnsdv_23fbz54rgj 11/12/2009
Link to the Federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979:
©2010 J Keffer