The alteration of stream channels by using recreational mining equipment in a stream is regulated in Idaho by the Stream Channel Protection Act. Recreational mining equipment can be any implement that is used to dig, scrape, dredge, or otherwise move stream bed materials from below the mean high watermark in search of minerals. If powered, your mining equipment may not exceed specific size and capability requirements. For example, if you use a suction dredge, it must have a nozzle diameter of 5 inches or less and be rated at no more than 15 horsepower and be capable of processing no greater than two (2) cubic yards of material per hour. Other powered and non-powered mining equipment also have capacity restrictions. The Stream Channel Protection Act also requires that a miner must obtain a permit from the Idaho Department of Water Resources before the miner alters any portion of the stream bed. State regulations also specify the streams where recreational mining is allowed.
All Idaho permits required by the state can be found here: https://idwr.idaho.gov/streams/recreational-mining-permits.html
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.
Idaho State Office
1387 South Vinnell Way
Boise, ID 83709
Coeur d'Alene District Office
3815 Schreiber Way
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83815
Coeur d' Alene Field Office
Cottonwood Field Office
Twin Falls District Office
2878 Addison Avenue East
Twin Falls, ID 83301
Shoshone Field Office
Idaho Falls District Office
1405 Hollipark Drive
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
Challis Field Office
Pocatello Field Office
Salmon Field Office
Upper Snake Field Office
United States Forest Service
Region 4: Intermountain Region
324 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401