Mining on the National Forest

Limited collection 1/ of rocks and minerals for personal use is allowed on most National Forest System lands. These materials may be collected without a permit provided the collecting is for personal, hobby, and noncommercial use. For commercial 2/ or other uses of rock material, contact the local Forest Service Office.Mining Symbol

There are also rules and laws enforced by the Bureau of Land Management in the State of Arizona. For rules on mining claims see the BLM rules here.


Diamond IconWhat types of recreational rock and mineral collecting are allowed on the National Forests?

Collection of small amounts 1/ of widespread, low-value, relatively common minerals and stones (common quartz crystals, agate, obsidian) for noncommercial use. Hobby mining activities; such as recreational gold panning or use of metal detectors 3/ to prospect for gold nuggets and other naturally occurring metals.


Are there any National Forest areas that are closed to recreational collecting?

Certain lands within the National Forest are not open to collecting due to wilderness designation or other sensitive areas. Contact the Forest Service for local information. It is a good idea to check with the Bureau of Land Management for specific locations to find out whether or not there are mining claims in the area. (More Wilderness information here.)

Would I need a permit or other permission?

No permit or notification is required for collecting if the following applies: Collecting of samples is on the surface (no digging with hand tools or mechanized equipment). Collection is for personal use and esthetic values (cannot be sold or bartered).

For the following activities, please contact the Forest Service to discuss permitting or authorization: Activity that does involve digging with hand tools or mechanized earth-moving equipment, including bobcats, suction dredges, ‘high banking’ or dry washing equipment. Commercial activities including collecting mineral or fossil specimens for re-sale. Removal of more than insignificant amounts 1/ of landscape rock.

A Bone icon for text  However, the following items may NOT be collected or removed by casual collectors:

Vertebrate fossils (dinosaurs bones, fish, - anything with a backbone), and shark teeth.
Archeological resources including any material remains of prehistoric or historic human life or activities, which are at least 50 years old, and includes the physical site, location, or context in which they are found. (36 CFR 261.2)
The collection of projectile points, pottery, or any other archeological resource or artifact is not allowed without a permit (36 CFR 261.9 (h). Projectile points include ‘arrowheads’ and any prehistoric human-modified stone.

 1/You may collect reasonable amounts of specimens. Generally, a reasonable amount is up to 10 pounds.

 2/Commercial use is any trading, bartering, or selling of rocks and minerals from National Forest System Lands.

 3/Commercial use is any trading, bartering, or selling of rocks and minerals from National Forest System Lands.

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