BLM: The Land of the Free

Rogue River Rafting | Bureau of Land Management Oregon and WashingtonThe 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.

Abert Rim & Lake Abert | Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

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.

Summer Lake & Diablo Mountain WSA | Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington