The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a government agency that oversees public land. This land is often leased out to private parties for grazing and mining. “The BLM manages one in every ten acres of land in the United States, and approximately 30% of the Nation’s minerals,” according to the BLM’s website. “These lands and minerals are found in every state in the country and encompass forests, mountains, rangelands, arctic tundra, and deserts.”
Things you CAN do on BLM land
Recreation fees can be “collected at areas which provide a minimum standard of services and amenities, called Standard and Expanded Amenities, as well as issuing permits authorizing a variety of uses of public lands and waters.” Areas that do not offer amenities often do not require a fee, though this can vary state to state. As there are no nationwide regulations on what can be done on BLM land, you should check with your state before taking a trip.
Dispersed camping, the technical term for camping outside of a campground or designated area on public lands, is allowed without a permit on most BLM land for up to 14 days. After 14 days, you are required to move at least 25 miles from your original spot and cannot return within 28 days. The BLM also asks that you camp at least 200 feet away from water and use sites that are already established, if possible.
Other things you can do on BLM land include hunting (with a permit), hiking, off-highway driving, horseback riding, and swimming. In fact, most outdoor recreational activities are allowed on BLM land, with the stipulation that you leave the land the way you found it. BLM land is a great place to go hiking with your pet; according to Go Pet Friendly, BLM managed lands allow “dogs on nearly all trails, many times allowing them to be off-leash.” Generally speaking, dogs are allowed to be off-leash in undeveloped areas. Near developments and campgrounds, the BLM generally allows pets but requires them to be leashed.
Things you CAN’T do on BLM Land
While the wilderness may be beautiful, you may want to be careful when capturing it on film. In most cases, casual photography and videography is allowed without a permit on BLM land. However, any photography or videography that uses models, sets, or props that are not part of the natural landscape, or takes place where members of the public generally are not allowed, normally requires a permit.
Sometimes public land can be difficult to access. Some BLM land is completely land-locked by privately owned property. If there are no public access roads, you will need to get permission from private land owners to cross their land.
According to the BLM’s website, it is also “illegal to cross public land at corners. Some areas in the West are checker-boarded with public and private lands, or otherwise have sections of public land that are difficult to reach. When the only place tracts of public land touch is at a corner, it may seem like a logical thing to step over the corner from one piece of public land to another. Every year hunters armed with GPS units and maps give it a try. Unfortunately, it is illegal to cross at boundary corners.”
When in doubt, it’s always safest to check with your local BLM office. Sometimes areas can be closed to the public because of fire restrictions or road closures. Rules change every year, so staying up to date will help you avoid a possible citation or fine. By obeying the law and protecting the land by leaving in the condition you found it in, everyone can enjoy access to public BLM land.
Whatever your preferred method of recreation, there is an outlet for you on the thousands of acres of public land managed by the BLM. So call up your local office and jot down a list of things to pack. The great outdoors is waiting.