Prospecting on private (patented) lands requires permission from the land owner prior to any such activities.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT:
§ 3809.5 How does BLM define certain terms used in this subpart?
Casual use means activities ordinarily resulting in no or negligible disturbance of the public lands or resources. For example -
(1) Casual use generally includes the collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using hand tools; hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing. It may include use of small portable suction dredges. (When allowed by state laws) It also generally includes use of metal detectors, gold spears and other battery-operated devices for sensing the presence of minerals, and hand and battery-operated drywashers. Operators may use motorized vehicles for casual use activities provided the use is consistent with the regulations governing such use (part 8340 of this title), off-road vehicle use designations contained in BLM land-use plans, and the terms of temporary closures ordered by BLM.
(2) Casual use does not include use of mechanized earth-moving equipment, truck-mounted drilling equipment, motorized vehicles in areas when designated as closed to “off-road vehicles” as defined in § 8340.0-5 of this title, chemicals, or explosives. It also does not include “occupancy” as defined in § 3715.0-5 of this title or operations in areas where the cumulative effects of the activities result in more than negligible disturbance.
BLM Casual Use - Can include equipment motor size regulated to LESS THAN 10 Horsepower. This is regulated and defined by each BLM Divisional office and in accordance with state regulations. You must contact the BLM regional or district office for current information regarding Motorized, Mechanical or compounded equipment.
United State Forest Service Lands:
Gold Prospecting & Sluicing on the Forest
Most of the National Forests in the western states are open to prospecting and mining, including panning and sluicing for gold. The Forest Service does not issue “permits “for mineral-related activities; however, authorization in a plan of operations is needed for some operations. A plan of operations is required for all mining activities that will create a significant disturbance on National Forest System Lands. Gold panning and work with hand tools usually does not require a plan. This is based on the assumption that in most cases significant resource damage will not occur when only hand-held, non-motorized equipment is used.
Check with the District Ranger for specific regulations and guidelines. District office locations may be obtained from the National Forest Supervisor's Offices:
Please follow this link for specific National Regulations https://www.fs.usda.gov/gsearch/gold%2Bprospecting%2B
Understand that regulations change, and it is your responsibility to contact local National Forest administration for current regs in areas you are prospecting.
including water regulatory, Fish & Game and other state agencies that oversee lands must be contacted to assure that you are prospecting within additional guidelines for public land use.
Region 2: Rocky Mountain Region:
740 Simms Street
Golden, CO 80401
Colorado State Office
2850 Youngfield St. Lakewood, CO 80215
PINION BRIDGE & NORWOOD BRIDGE
All prospecting must be done in the water channel. No working of the banks.
Pans and Shovels only