Get permit before you remove rock from federal land

I need a couple of good-sized rocks for a small flower garden I am building at home and wonder if I need a permit to take them from our local federal land. All I need is maybe 10 about the size of small watermelons, although they need to be flat on one side. But I don't want to get in deep doo-doo with Uncle Sam. What is the policy on this?

— Jim S., Medford

No, you certainly don't want to get in a rock-throwing contest with an entity which has more rocks than there are pebbles on, well, Pebble Beach, Jim.

We checked with the folks at the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, both agencies with boulders aplenty of all sizes and shapes.

And both indicated that anyone taking rocks off of federal land needs to first obtain a permit. It doesn't matter if they are flat on one side, lop-sided or the shape of your weird uncle's head.

While it depends on the volume, the personal-use permit would be free, officials said, although adding that a commercial-use permit would warrant a charge.

A commercial permit would be required if it was for a large amount or for a commercial enterprise, said Paul Galloway, spokesman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"No matter what the reason, people need to check in and make sure it is OK," he stressed. That applies to removing rocks or anything from federal land.

"We need to know where the rocks would be removed and how much."

That helps ensures the material is not taken from a sensitive area, he said.

"We would have to take a look at the impact," Galloway said. "It all depends on the volume of rock and the location."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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