Utah is an excellent destination for rock hounding. The state's diverse terrain is home to numerous varieties of rare rocks, gemstones, and fossils. Although there are laws regulating rockhounding, most of our public land is open and rocks can be collected freely by the public. Utah rockhounding areas include Millard County and most of Central Utah, although there are fascinating rocks to be found throughout the state.
What can be collected on Public Lands?
Rocks and Minerals
In general, a person may collect reasonable amounts of gemstones and rocks from public lands for recreational purposes or personal use. If rocks and mineral specimens are collected for sale or commercial use, a permit must be obtained (under provisions of the Minerals Act), from the BLM Field Office involved. In Utah's West Desert, for instance, administered by the BLM's Richfield Office, Utah's rare Topaz Gemstone can be found, and in the BLM's Salt Lake District, the popular Dugway Geode can be collected, both in "reasonable amounts for recreational purposes or personal use" without obtaining any special permission.
Invertebrate fossils are those without backbones I.e., trilobites, snails, clams, insects, etc. Common invertebrate fossils (those which occur in large numbers throughout a large area) may be collected in reasonable quantities for recreational purposes. Again, no permit is required unless invertebrate fossils are intended for sale or commercial use.
Petrified wood can be collected for personal non-commercial uses also, but there are specific daily and yearly limits even for personal use. Collectors taking more than their share are rapidly depleting the better petrified wood localities. Consequently, individuals without permits are allowed to take only a limit of 250 pounds per calendar year. A permit is required if the petrified wood collected is to be used for sale or commercial use. No explosives or powder equipment such as tractors, bulldozers, plows, or power shovels may be used under any circumstances! Due to restrictions on petrified wood collecting on some public lands, please check with the local BLM office before you begin.
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 he 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. 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.
A more recent Federal law, 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. Anything 10 years or older is covered by this law. Criminal penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and/or five years in prison are possible upon conviction. Civil and criminal damages may also be assessed, based on the value of the destroyed or stolen remains. ARAP provides for civil confiscation of vehicles and other personal property used to carry out the violation, and provides for payment of rewards for information leading to convictions. For your own protection, do not attempt to apprehend perpetrators yourself, but license numbers, times, dates, descriptions, (photographs or video tape would be nice) if safely collectable from an equitable distance, should be reported to the closest local Federal authorities and nearest BLM office.
To report illegal collecting or vandalism call, 1-800-722-3998.
Please remember not to leave any modern day artifacts or human remains of your own (haul out your trash from remote areas), take only photographs and leave only footprints on designated paths.
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