For many nomads, snowbirds, boondockers, or travelers BLM land can be a whole new experience. BLM public lands are available for us to enjoy, explore, and make amazing memories for many years to come. Keep in mind that these are wide open spaces and wildlands so be aware of your surroundings and plan ahead. Taking necessary steps to reduce the chances of becoming injured or lost are the responsibility of everyone visiting America’s public lands and waters.

Here you will find information on what you need to know before visiting BLM public lands. It is recommended to check in with the closest BLM office for more information about local regulations and recreational resources.

Cell Phone Coverage

Much of America’s public lands are outside of established towns which means cell coverage may be poor or non-existent. Don’t rely on your cell phone for emergencies. Take necessary precautions and follow other recommendations to ensure a safe experience out on public lands.

Bear Safety

It is best to avoid bears whenever possible and you can safely do this by keeping your camp clean and following proper bear safety advice.

Don’t Feed Bears

  • Bears are constantly looking for food since they only have a few months to build up fat reserves before they go into hibernation. Don’t let bears think that scrounging for human food is an easy meal.
  • Be sure that you avoid smelly and greasy foods like fish or bacon.
  • Keep your camp clean by washing your dishes, properly disposing of all trash and leftover food, and by keeping food smells off your clothes.
  • Store your food in airtight containers and away from your camp. Don’t cook food near your camp and try to keep all food out of reach of bears.
  • Any other items you have that produce a scent should be stored away so bears can’t access it.
  • Keep in mind that if you have a pet it could attract bears so take precautionary measures.

Never Approach Bears

  • Bears can become aggressive if you invade their space, especially female bears if they have cubs with them so keep your distance.
  • If you plan on photographing bears then make sure you use a zoom lens to avoid getting too close.
  • Avoid setting up camp near trails and roads since bears tend to use them just as we do.
  • If you see or smell carcasses then plan on camping elsewhere. A bear or other scavengers could be nearby.

Don’t Fish Near Bears

  • Bears will return to fishing locations if it learns it can easily obtain it from a fisherman so don’t catch fish for the bears.
  • If you spot a bear while you are fishing, stop fishing.
  • If you happen to have a fish on the line when a bear approaches then give the line some slack to prevent it from splashing or if you need to, cut your line.

Don’t Surprise a Bear

  • Its always best to let bears know that you are there. They tend to avoid humans so make noise, talk loudly, or sing if you need to.
  • It can be hard to see if you’re in thick brush so try to avoid that. If you can’t avoid thick brush then make extra noise.
  • Bears trust their noses more than their eyes or ears so walk with the wind at your back.
  • If you can, hike in a group since groups are easier for bears to detect.

Never Run!

  • Bears are much faster than we are and they are much like dogs, they will chase a fleeing animal.

Snake Safety

When you’re in an area where snakes could be make sure you prepare and wear high-top boots, be alert, and use a walking stick to check under brush or around crevices. Be careful when moving logs or piles of brush. Usually about 20% of all snake bites inject venom. If you have been bitten the best thing to do is to get transported to a hospital as soon as possible.

Ticks

Ticks can spread Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever so it’s best to promptly remove any tick. Both males and females feed on blood. They’re external parasites that live on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Wear appropriate clothing and regularly inspect exposed skin.

Abandoned Mines

You may come across abandoned mines in the desert and although they seem mysterious and your curiosity might tempt you to check them out it’s best to stay away from them. Many deaths have been reported from abandoned mines. Stay out and you’ll live to see another day.

Caves

Caves are a great way to cure curiosity but they can also be very dangerous, especially if you’re inexperienced.

Follow these caving safety tips:

  • Before entering a cave make sure you let someone know where you are
  • Dress appropriately
  • Bring water
  • Bring multiple sources of light and backup batteries
  • Always wear protection such as a helmet and gloves
  • Maintain contact with everyone in your group
  • Be careful of loose rocks
  • Follow paths and never remove rocks, formations, or creatures
  • Leave No Trace = Pack it in, Pack it out

Summer Heat

Public lands in the summertime can reach over 100 degrees so follow these tips to prevent heatstroke:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the middle of the day when it’s the hottest
  • Wear appropriate clothing such as a hat, long sleeved shirt, and sunglasses
  • Use sun screen

River Safety

Rivers can be dangerous so always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. If you plan on kayaking or boating then make sure you know the water and your limits since rivers can get pretty choppy. Always use appropriate gear when boating and know how to recognize river hazards. Make sure you carry a first aid kit as well.

Fire Safety

Fire safety is extremely important out on BLM public lands. Many forest fires are human-created so it’s best to do your part to protect against this from happening. Make sure you check with the Bureau of Land Management for campfire restrictions, regulations, and permit requirements.

Keep these things in mind if you create your own campfire:

  • Keep the fire small
  • Don’t leave your fire unattended
  • Don’t burn foil, plastic, or other trash
  • Make sure no burnable material is within a 5-foot radius of the fire
  • Build your campfire away from meadows, leaves, overhanging branches, logs, and steep slopes
  • Always put out your fire

Flash Floods

Flash floods are more common in July, August, and September but they can occur at any time of the year. Always check in with the local weather to ensure no flash floods will take place. Avoid washes, narrow canyons, and know your escape routes.

Hypothermia

Prolonged exposure to the cold can lead to hypothermia which is a rapidly progressive mental & physical collapse due to the chilling of the body’s core. Cold weather protection in the desert is vital in preventing hypothermia.

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy

Both Poison Oak and Poison Ivy are pretty common. They both carry an oil that causes a rash to develop when a person’s skin comes in contact with it. Learn to recognize what they look like and protect yourself by wearing long pants and long sleeves. If you think you have it make sure you don’t spread it to others and wash your skin as soon as possible. Calamine lotion and creams containing Benadryl or Cortisone can help relieve rash symptoms.

Firewood

Don’t bring your own firewood from home to burn at another location. Trees and forests are threatened by non-native insects and diseases. Invasive insects can survive while being transported so it’s best to buy local firewood, heat treated firewood, or gather firewood on site if it is allowed.

Public lands are available for us to enjoy, vacation, explore, and connect with nature. To ensure that it is available for our future generations we need to take care of it. Play your part and keep our public lands clean.

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