Hobby Collecting of Fossils and Petrified Wood
Limited collection1/ of common invertebrate or plant fossils such as shells, leaf imprints, corals, etc., 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 other uses of this material, contact the local Forest Service Office.
Fossil (Paleontological) resource means any evidence of fossilized remains of multicellular invertebrate and vertebrate animals and multicellular plants, including imprints thereof (36 CFR 261.2). There are four major types of fossils: ichnofossil (a.k.a. imprint or trace fossil), plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate.
Ichnofossils (or trace fossils) are typically sedimentary structures consisting of a fossilized track, trail, burrow, or tube resulting from the life activities and behavior of an animal, such as a mark made by an invertebrate creeping, feeding, hiding, or resting on or in soft sediment. Some non-sedimentary examples include tooth marks (resulting from predation), skin impressions, and coprolites (fossil dung).
Fossil plants are the fossilized remains of all parts of a plant. Petrified wood is a common term used for wood fossilized by silica, where the woody structure is visible. A free-use permit may be issued to amateur collectors and scientists to take limited quantities of petrified wood for personal use. A permit is required for commercial sales2/ of petrified wood.
Invertebrate fossils are the fossilized remains of animals lacking a backbone. A few examples include: ammonites, trilobites, snails, clams, and insects. Invertebrate and plant fossils (including invertebrate and plant trace fossils) may be collected without a permit, from the surface without digging and for personal, hobby, educational, and noncommercial use only. A permit is required for research/scientific purposes.
Vertebrate fossils are the fossilized remains of any animal having a bony skeleton or backbone such as:fish (includes sharks and rays), amphibians, reptiles (including dinosaurs, mosasaurs, and turtles), birds, mammals, and all trace fossils from vertebrate animals, such as dinosaur tracks.
The collection and/or duplication of vertebrate fossils, including vertebrate trace fossils, from National Forest System Lands requires a permit (36 CFR 261.9 (i)). Permits are issued to qualified paleontologists and researchers who curate the fossils for scientific and educational purposes.
No permits for the collection of any fossils (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, or any trace fossils) are issued for commercial purposes, except for petrified wood. Trading, bartering, or selling any fossil material (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, or any trace fossils) removed from National Forest System lands is prohibited.
1/ You may collect reasonable amounts of specimens. Generally, a reasonable amount is up to 10 pounds.
2/ Commercial use is defined as any trading, bartering, or selling fossils or petrified wood from National Forest System lands.