What To Do When Approached By A Forest Ranger - by Public Lands for the People

Before going into the forest with the intent to mine, prospect or treasure hunt, make sure to have all your necessary papers recorded and filed with the proper agencies. Use certified mail/return receipt when sending mail to any government agency. Have copies available on your person, along with the the Washington Fish and Gold Pamphlet (or the appropriate document for another state). Always carry a camera, pen and paper or voice recorder, and a copy of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Section 228.4 (36 CAR 228.4) which are the six pages of rules pertaining to prospecting and mining in the National Forest. Both the Fish and Gold Pamphlet and the Code of Federal Regulations are available on our "Helpful Links" page.

When confronted by a Ranger, have a pleasant and friendly demeanor. Quietly take a picture of the Ranger and record the date and time, and continue to record everything that is said during the encounter. Explain you are doing this in order to have documentation in case of a hearing or court suit. Ask the Ranger for his or her name and the purpose of their visit. If the Ranger tells you that you cannot do what you are doing, show him your copy of the Code of Federal Regulations, and ask him or her to point out the particular section of the rules they think you are violating. You can disagree with the Ranger, but do so without being disrespectful. Ask the Ranger to put it in writing and offer your pen and paper. If the Ranger is not willing to do this, tell him or her to have a nice day and go back to work.  However, if you are threatened with a ticket, cease work.

After you have been ordered to discontinue your work, you can file an administrative appeal. But first, you must try to settle the issue with the District Ranger. You can arrange a meeting, or write a letter or send an email. If you write a letter, remember to send it Certified/Return Receipt. In the letter or meeting, tell the District Ranger you disagree with the decision made by the field Ranger. Give him a copy of the regulation you feel was violated by the field Ranger, and tell him you expect the decision to be reversed, as settlement. This should end the matter, but if it does not, you may now file an appeal.

You must file your appeal with the Forest Supervisor within 45 days from the day after the District Ranger signs the decision. Send a copy of your appeal to the District Ranger, Certified/Return Receipt. You then have 20 days to answer his response, in which he or she will have to specify the reasons for supporting the decision you disagree with. After the Forest Supervisor receives your response, he or she has 30 days to issue a decision. If the Supervisor disagrees with you, you can still pursue it further.

You may file a copy of your appeal with the Regional Forester within 15 days of receiving the adverse decision from the Forest Supervisor. The Regional Forester now has 30 days to issue a decision. If you are dissatisfied with this decision, your only further recourse is to file a federal lawsuit.