Rockhounding Ethics

For decades now there has been a list of Rockhounding Ethics or rules to follow when rockhounding that has been floating around and printed in countless publications over this time period.

I think there’s a number topics on this list that can expanded upon, and updated to fit better into current times.

The original codes are written bold typeface.

I will respect both private and public property and will do no rockhounding on privately owned land without the owner’s permission.
This should go without saying; you can’t go and dig on someones private property without permission. But how exactly do you determine property lines? This will be covered down below.

I will keep informed on all laws, regulations or rules governing collecting on public lands and will observe them.
This can be very difficult if you do any level of travel in your rockhounding adventures. Not all local, state, and federal lands are created equal.

If you’re at all unsure about a regulation related to rockhounding it’s best to call the agency that is in charge of that land.

I will, to the best of my ability, ascertain the boundary lines of property on which I plan to collect.
This has never been easier. With apps like GaiaGPS you can see all of the property lines for public and private lands on your phone and download those maps offline since it seems like service is never good in rockhounding locations.

I will use no firearms or blasting material in rockhounding areas.
I see the point behind including this but since many of the areas in United States for rockhounding are also on public lands which allows the recreational use of firearms I think it’s best left to the individual to understand and follow safe firearm useage.

I will leave all gates as found.
This is a really important one. The reason you leave gates as you found them is because of grazing animals. It’s an important rule of courtesy in rural areas throughout the United States: if a gate is found open, it should be left open, and if it is closed, it should be left closed. In low-rainfall areas, closing gates can cut livestock off from water supplies so it’s best to just leave them as you found them.

I will build fires in designated or safe places only and will be certain they are completely extinguished before leaving the area.
This is a good general rule for all outdoor activities

I will discard no burning material — matches, cigarettes, etc.
Excellent advice.

I will fill all excavation holes which may be dangerous to people or livestock.
The key word here is “may”. It is not a requirement and it is not the law that you backfill a hole you dig, but rather you should use your best judgment on this one. It should go without saying that you should be following any local signage about the backfilling of holes, if there is any. Let’s look at two examples of maybe when you would want to fill a hole and when you wouldn’t.

You’re exploring an area not known for any rockhounding and you decide you want to dig a test hole or pry out a big rock from the dirt: this is a good time to backfill the hole you dug since no one is expecting there to be a hole in the area.

You visit a very well know rockhounding location with a number of holes already open: this is a situation where leaving a hole open would be preferrable since people are expecting them and generally there is no livestock in the area.

I do think it is best to leave holes in a safe way which is with no overhangs left behind.

I will not contaminate wells, creeks, or other water supplies.
Excellent advice.

I will cause no willful damage to collecting material and will take home only what I can reasonably use.
I have seen so many older people in rock clubs pass away, and the club comes in to help their widow deal with the insane pile of rocks and ocean full of forgotten about buckets of material. If all you’re going to do is hoard something and let it sit in a bucket that fills with water what’s even the point? Collecting with intention and purpose is smart, collecting a hoard with no purpose is foolish.

I will support the rockhound project H.E.L.P. (Help Eliminate Litter Please) and will leave all collecting areas devoid of litter regardless of how found.
The best I can tell this organization no longer exists but from what I can gather they were a group that promoted leaving locations clean for the next person. Pack it in, pack it out applies.

I will cooperate with field trip leaders and those in designated authority in all collection areas.
Generally speaking I think this is good.

I will report to my club or federation officers, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service or other proper authorities, any deposit of petrified wood or other material on public lands which should be protected for the enjoyment of future generations for public educational and scientific purposes.
I have tried to research if this is a legal requirement or not and as of July 2021 I am still very unclear about that.

I will appreciate and protect our heritage of natural resources.
Excellent advice.

I will observe the “Golden Rule,” will use “Good Outdoor Manners” and will at all times conduct myself in a manner which will add to the stature and “public image” of rockhounds everywhere.
I think this is great advice but I would really like to add to it that you should conduct yourself in a professional and courteous manner online, as much of the interaction with other rockhounds is done on the internet now and you should behave as good, if not better online than you would in person.