There are few hobbies that encourage you to get out and explore like metal detecting, which may leave you wondering if you can do so on conservation lands.
Metal detecting can be practiced on certain conservation lands. This is determined based on the laws and restrictions that each specific conservation land has put in place, as they can and will greatly vary depending on whether the land is federal, state, city, or privately owned.
This can often be a little frustrating for metal detector enthusiasts that want to practice their hobby without so much regulation. The reason why metal detecting can be a little bit vague as to whether or not you’re allowed to do it is based on the environmental value of the land and how this hobby can affect the ecology of the area. In addition, some conservation lands are privately owned or can be sacred burial grounds for Native Americans. That’s why you always want to do thorough personal research before you go out hunting.
Conservation lands are regulated and enforced by a wide variety of government departments such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Society. The regulations in place on these lands are overseen by state and federal governments.
Where You Can Metal Detect
Metal detecting is an incredible way to spend the day. Whether you find anything or not, it’s often just a great pastime that encourages you to get out of the house and if you are lucky enough, you just may come home with some buried treasure. That’s why many hunters still practice this great hobby avidly to this day.
The thing about metal detecting is you generally need to go out into some form of the outdoors if you hope to find something of value. If you try hunting in the city, you’re likely to end up with loose change at best.
That’s why so many hunters aim to go out on natural lands and that often means having to try your luck at places that have been marked for conservation. Given that conservation lands generally have so many restrictions and guidelines, it’s often easy to get intimidated by their perceived protection and give up on the spot.
In addition, conservation lands rarely have signage or any clear distinction that highlights whether metal detecting is even allowed! And after reaching out to the landowner or regulator, it’s easy to have an email inquiry go unanswered. This can take frustrations to a new level.
The good news is that you can metal detect in many lands designated for conservation, but you should always be aware of the specific guidelines for each land you’re considering, as regulations can vary greatly. That’s why we are taking you through all the conservation lands you can go metal detecting on!
If there are any conservation lands out there that have a reputation for denying access to metal detectors, it’s federal lands. Conservation lands located on federal property tend to have a lot of restrictions and guidelines in place - and unfortunately, that includes going out with your metal detector.
However, you will be happy to know that a rare exception to this is in our country’s National Forests. These conservation lands can be found all over the United States and they rarely if ever have any restrictions that prohibit metal detecting. With almost 2 million acres to play around with, you’ve got loads of uncharted territory to take your metal detector out to.
With that being said, an example of a National Forest being closed off to metal detecting would be if there is excessive logging happening within the forest. If there is, there will likely be quite a bit of signage out that either prohibits metal detecting specifically or is closed to the public entirely.
To be safe, you should try to contact the overseer of the National Forest you’re specifically considering to ask about metal detecting or any other restrictions involved on the federal conservation land.
Our beautiful nation is littered with loads of different state parks. These conservation lands can make for a perfect retreat into nature while hunting down some buried treasure with your metal detector.
While there are few locations as prime for metal detecting as state parks, your legal access to them to pursue your hobby can often be vaguer than you’d like. Ultimately, your ability to go hunting at state parks will largely be enforced on a park to park basis.
With so many state parks located in the United States, each one will have slightly different regulations when it comes to metal detecting. You will certainly have some that have practically no issue with metal detecting - some that have reasonable regulations in place - and others that just flat out say no.
The reason why this can vary so much across the board is that each state park has a different level of conservation practice and environmental significance. If the park has any endangered species or habitat located on the land, restrictions for most things, including metal detecting, will have much more oversight and regulation. However, if the park’s wildlife and habitats are in good health, you’ll find the state park is much more open to you pursuing your hunt.
It’s not always common for state parks to have signage out that cater specifically to metal detecting, which is why you should always ask yourself before heading out. State parks generally always have ranger stations that are a great source for direct information.
Most metal detector enthusiasts will tell you that if you’re going to strike gold consistently anywhere it’s at the beach! The reason for this is that beaches claim people’s valuables on a daily basis - a gust of wind comes up and there goes someone’s diamond ring getting buried in the sand.
While any beach has the potential to be a goldmine, our beaches do go under many different classifications and protection protocols. The few beaches out there that fall under conservation protection will be our state beaches. These beaches in many ways have the same level of oversight as state parks. The reason being is that beaches can have significant environmental value to them and are often home to at-risk or endangered habitats, which can lead to some more regulations being put in place on them.
The good news is that state beaches tend to be a more flexible type of government-owned conservation land when it comes to metal detecting. Since most people hunt for their treasure in the sand itself, it’s rare and highly unlikely that you will interfere with any sensitive wildlife or habitat by digging a few holes.
In addition, since beaches are such common places to see metal detectors, state beaches will often have signage that specifically highlights whether a hunter can practice their hobby and what restrictions may be involved. The most common regulation in place will be asking you to hunt exclusively on the beach within the perimeter of the sand.
It’s easy to forget that much of our nation’s city parks are actually classified under a certain level of environmental conservation. The good news about most public parks is they tend to be far less regulated and protected than typical conservation lands we see. This is great news for taking your metal detector out!
It is especially rare to see some form of regulation in place for metal detectors on public parks designated as conservation lands. The reason for this is that these parks have a very urban/rural adaptation for public access - making them perfect places to go when you want to go hunting without any hassles. They are easily accessible, widely available, and offer just as much (if not more) potential for finding something good.
With that being said, each public park is quite different. This will be greatly determined by your local city government and local ecology. It’s not uncommon to find some public parks that either have a vital habitat for some plant and animal species.
In addition, public parks may often have some sort of city plumbing or water pipes buried underneath their surface, which can particularly complicate going metal detecting. In these cases, parks may have signs that point to specific areas that you are allowed to go hunting and others where you are not. To play it safe you should always try to inquire about this with the local park authority.
Throughout the United States, farmland takes up just under a billion acres of land, which is more ground to cover than any single hunter can hope for.
While a lot of these lands make up private property that is not designated for conservation use - some of it very well could be. It’s become more and more common for the United States government and private landowners to establish their farmland as conservation land. This is generally to with the farmland having some sort of vital natural resource such as fertile soil that is ideal for food growing or freshwater that is used by a local community - or necessary for a local habitat.
With that being said, you can commonly find farms that have conservation land that is relatively easily accessible for metal detecting. This location is particularly attractive to some hunters, as many occupied farmlands were once battlegrounds during either the Revolutionary or Civil War - making them ideal places to go metal detecting for artifacts from these time periods.
If the farmland is government-owned it may be a bit more challenging to find a direct answer pertaining to your right to go hunting on the property, but not impossible. Try contacting the federal department that oversees that specific land to get permission.
Privately owned conservation farmlands are much more straightforward, as tracking down a landowner or at the very least their phone number can be quite a bit easier than getting ahold of a government official. The only reason they would likely object to you hunting on their land is if their conservation farmland policy specifically dictates that such a practice is environmentally unsound for their property.
A common trend that many landowners and homeowners are hopping on is converting their privately owned lands to conservation lands. These are private lands that have been appraised, approved, and converted into what’s called a conservation easement for the sake of protecting a type of environmental quality.
These properties still belong to the original landowner but they must be maintained and regulated in a certain way that ensures the protection of the land stays within the guidelines of the conservation easement.
With that being said, it is quite common for conservation lands with this classification to be open for metal detecting. In fact, there are a large number of conservation lands that have been left open for public use and set up as a form of a nature reserve. When set up for public access, you can generally expect these conservation lands to be approached in the same way you might approach a state park; specific rules and regulations pertaining to the local environmental restrictions.
While this is a common trend you can find on a lot of conservation easements, it’s also likely that you will find a lot of lands with this classification that have been left as private residences - with large landscapes. In this case, the land may not be as readily open for public access, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t go hunting.
When this occurs, you always want to find a way to contact the property owner and ask for permission. It’s not uncommon for an owner to grant permission so long as the specific guidelines of their conservation easement don’t say otherwise.
Bureau of Land Management
A key federal land area you should always look out for when you want to go hunting is any conservation land that is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
This federal department looks after roughly 10% of all land located within the United States and has very loose restrictions on collecting and metal detecting. In fact, they encourage it!
This makes any land located under the Bureau of Land Management a safe bet for hunters. These lands can be found all over the United States and can be very easily accessed - often just on the side of the road. While they are set up officially as conservation lands, they rarely if ever have any form of significant environmental value or protection.
These lands can vary from anything to plains to uncultivated farmlands that haven’t been designated for use yet. When hunting on these lands, you can pretty much keep anything of value that you find with the exception of artifacts and coins that are aged over 100 years.
The Forest Society makes up an enormous amount of our nation’s forested lands, which makes for a great place to take your metal detector out.
While hunting is a possibility on these lands, you probably shouldn’t make it your first or even second pick. The reason for this is that the Forest Society has pretty strict guidelines put in place on metal detecting.
However strict the rules in place, the prospect of going out hunting on these conservation lands is not impossible. A specific reason that the Forest Society allows for metal detecting is for academic purposes.
That means that if you are part of an academic group such as a school trip or a historian searching for specific artifacts for your study, your chances of getting approval to go metal detecting significantly increase.
Where You Can Not Metal Detect
The areas that you can’t metal detect are really dependant on a case-by-case basis. In reality, there are exceptions to most rules and regulations when it comes to locations that you want to go metal detecting.
With that being said, much of the conservation land locations in the above-mentioned list could have some sort of policy or regulation for their specific location that prohibits the hobby of metal detecting.
To practice your hunting legally and without any hassles, you should always take the initiative to thoroughly research the conservation land you are considering to confirm whether you are allowed to practice your hobby there.
Let’s take a quick look at some conservation lands where you will not be allowed to go metal detecting.
Our nation’s national parks are among the strictest when it comes to metal detecting.
These parks embody the most regulatory conservation and preservation work that aims to protect the environment to the highest level possible to mitigate any form of a negative ecological footprint.
With that being said you can get into some serious trouble if even seen with a metal detector at a national park; let alone if you attempt to use one. These parks are designed with the specific intention of retaining natural beauty and preserving vital habitats that could be particularly sensitive to even the slightest amount of human interference - including metal detecting.
National Monuments are another area that will almost certainly prohibit any form of metal detecting.
Much like our nation’s national parks, these monuments were designed to protect habitat (when located in nature) and preserve the natural aesthetic of a treasured piece of land that is likely iconic for the United States.
These conservation lands have particularly strict guidelines on what you can do on them and metal detecting is generally prohibited.
A rare example that may lead to an exception would be to be on a survey team done for academic reasons where the intentions were to located any artifacts that have historic value.
Another area you want to tread particularly lightly in when looking for hunting options would be any conservation land that is designated as a historic site.
These types of lands are scattered here and there throughout the United States and will likely all be off-limits for metal detecting due to what could potentially be historically valued artifacts that the government has laid claim to.
In addition, some historic sites are belonging to Native Americans and may be prohibited for public access in general. Not only are these lands generally off-limits to the public but they may be classified as ‘sacred land’ by a Native American tribe or are part of a burial ground.
These conservation lands should always be approached with the utmost respect and never for the purpose of metal detecting.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker