The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees and manages 8.3 million acres in Colorado, offering a variety of resources and terrain for numerous activities. To camp on BLM public lands, it is important to take necessary safety precautions and to be familiar with any regulations or laws to maintain the quality of life and to ensure your well-being.
Before heading to a remote location, where most BLM campsites are located, you should take into consideration the weather conditions, necessary equipment, and any safety procedures that are recommended. In order to maintain safety standards for visitors and the environment itself, the BLM has specific protection and law enforcement responsibilities to achieve its resource management mission.
Resource Management Mission:
- Set a framework for achieving sustainable experiences and quality of life outcomes for individuals, communities, and the environment.
- Sustain the diversity, distinctive character, and capacity of BLM recreation settings.
- Increase the economic stability and sustainability of the BLM Colorado recreation program.
Many of the federal laws and regulations that protect public lands and its’ resources are often variable since they only apply to federal lands and have no association with state laws.
Who and What is BLM
BLM is land available to the public for a variety of uses within the laws and regulations. BLM Rangers often assist local county and city police departments along with other federal and state land management agencies. Public lands also have BLM Special Agents to investigate illegal activity stemming from drugs to hunting and mineral mining. All BLM Rangers are uniformed officers who provide a recurring presence for vast areas of public lands in Colorado to protect and serve.
Occupancy and Use
The BLM does not let you camp longer than 14 days in any 30 day period at one location, including any campground on public land. After 14 days are over, you must move at least 30 air miles away from the previously occupied location. However, there is no bureau-wide standard for this and we recommend that you check in with the state you plan to camp in.
After vacating the campsite, do not leave any personal property behind. This includes any property left for another camper or occupant. You must not leave personal property unattended in a campground, designation recreation area, or any other public lands for more than 48 hours. If done so without permission, the items left behind are subject to disposition under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949. Vehicles parked for overnight camping, hiking, river rafting or other authorized recreation activities are exempt.
You must not establish occupancy, take possession of, or otherwise use public lands for residential purposes unless you receive prior authorization from the BLM. There must be no violation of any State of Colorado or county laws, and regulations regarding public health, safety, sanitation, building or fire codes while camping on, occupying or using public land.If a camping area charges fees, you must register and pay the camping fees within 30 minutes of entering a fee area.
All cutting and removing of wood from BLM lands or public land requires a permit and is allowed only in designated areas. Wood cutting permits can be obtained at BLM district and field offices. The person who was issued the permit must be present during all wood cutting activities with the permit itself. If you purchase a permit, wood tags are issued to document the amount of wood being harvested.
Safety Standards For Campers
Leave behind a trip schedule, especially when venturing out to undeveloped areas, to let someone know what your trip plans are and vehicle information if a search and rescue is necessary.
Camping is generally permitted on all public lands as long as you follow the BLM regulations posted at your location. Campfires are allowed on public lands, as long as they are in accordance with local fire regulations. They should be built in a manner to ensure the safety of the public, BLM resources and other surrounding environments.
Never start a fire with flammable liquids and always look for a preexisting fire pit rather than forming a new one. Plenty of water and a shovel should always be part of your camping gear, in case the fire needs to be extinguished. If you prefer to sleep in a camper or tent with a catalytic heater, it is recommended to ventilate your tent or RV to prevent dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Any hibachi-type cooking device should be used outdoors and never in a small space.
At most BLM campgrounds, garbage containers are installed and you are encouraged to use them. Any improperly discarded trash will attract flies, insects, and animals and ultimately cause unsanitary conditions. If no garbage containers are available, a standard camping rule will apply – “pack it in, pack it out.”
The CORSAR (Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue) Card replaces what was known as the Colorado Hiking Certificate. Money generated from the sales of these cards going to the Colorado Search and Rescue Fund, which provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during search and rescue missions. The cost is $3 for a one-year card or $12 for a five-year card. A list of CORSAR Card Vendors is available by contacting the Colorado Department of Local Affairs at (970) 248-7310.