Regional BLM Shuts Down Free Camping, Indefinitely

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Regional BLM Shuts Down Free Camping, Indefinitely

The BLM is closing more public lands to camping again, and this time it’s happening near Reno, Nevada. 

Large, permanent encampments set up on wide swaths of BLM land outside of Reno have prompted the local BLM agencies to indefinitely close these lands to camping as the rangers struggle to keep up.

Let’s learn more:

BLM Closing Sections of Public Land in Nevada Indefinitely

Starting April 1, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada is closing some public land areas in Washoe and Lyon counties to camping for an indefinite period of time. 

The closures affect large areas of BLM land near Golden and Sun Valleys, an an area near Mound House off of Highway 50. 

While these areas are being closed to camping, they are still open for public day use for hiking and other outdoor recreation. 

Carson City BLM District Manager, Ken Collum, says these areas are seeing an uptick of people living in unofficial camps for extended periods of time. These permanent camps not only negatively impact the land, but other public land users. 

About the Bureau of Land Management and Public Lands

BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM is an agency within the US Department of the Interior that is responsible for administering federal lands. The BLM manages over 247 million acres, which is one eighth of the landmass of the US.

These federal lands are “public” lands and are open to the public for uses like hiking, hunting, off-roading, camping, and much more. 

The BLM manages large swaths of land with resource management plans and designates certain areas to be used by the public that will have the least negative impact on the ecosystem and other land visitors. 

BLM law enforcement rangers regularly patrol these public-use areas to ensure rules are being followed and take action when necessary. 

Overstaying Stay Limits Negatively Impacts All Public Land Users

According to Ken Collum, Carson City BLM District Manager, “People who want to use public lands are reluctant to go out where camps have been for a while, we are hitting the biggest areas that have the biggest impacts to public lands users”. 

Permanent encampments on public lands are often sprawling, leaving litter and human waste behind. These encampments are also associated with criminal activity, deterring other would-be campers passing through from spending the night. 

BLM Land-Use Stay Policy

The Bureau of Land Management has a 14-night policy at most public lands that are open to overnight camping. 

From the BLM website

“Dispersed camping is allowed on public land for a period not to exceed 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period.”

These stay limits are in place to prevent permanent encampments on public lands and to protect the precious resources and ecosystems of the lands themselves. Overuse can disrupt local ecosystems and tear up the area. Sometimes, public land camping areas get shut down simply due to overuse to allow the ecosystem time to recover. 

Why Are People Living on Public Lands? 

In the case of permanent camps being set up on the BLM areas in Sun and Golden Valleys in Nevada, the main reasons are free or cheap living and close proximity to town. 

It’s typically never travelers setting up permanent encampments or overstaying limits, but locals who sometimes feel they have nowhere else to turn. 

They turn to public lands in RVs, old campers, or tents for a solution for a place to live, while still being close to town for supplies and their jobs. 

Many RV parks in the Reno area have age-limits for RVs, anywhere from 20 years or 10 years or newer. This can make it difficult for people who need to be in the area to find a place to camp, and some of them have chosen to make a permanent spot out on public lands. 

“A lot of this just coincides with lack of affordable housing and apartments,” said District Manager Ken Collum. 

Strained Resources Can’t Manage Rule-Breakers

The areas included in the Nevada BLM Closures comprise about 8,000 acres of BLM land. With just one ranger to patrol the area, the BLM can’t keep up with ensuring that everyone is following the 14-day limit. 

In addition to an increase of litter being left on public lands from the permanent encampments, abandoned vehicles are being left behind, too. 

The BLM spends anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 to remove abandoned vehicles from public lands, and that money comes straight out of taxpayers pockets. 

Camping Prohibited Indefinitely, Day Use Still Open: “More Closures Could Be Coming”

While camping at these sites in Nevada is prohibited indefinitely, district manager Ken Collum wants to be sure the public knows that these sites are still open for day use. 

He also stated that more closures could be coming down the road. 

BLM Land Closures Affect All Public Land Users

Any BLM land closures affect all public land users. These public lands are often located in popular areas, such as near a city, like the areas being closed in Nevada. 

BLM lands are a great convenience for RVers traveling through an area, or for RVers unable to find RV camping or who just prefer the boondocking experience. 

When these lands close down, it eliminates yet another swath of boondocking land for responsible RVers everywhere. 

More and more RVers hit the road every year, and every year, more BLM land closes down. 

Be a Responsible Public Lands User

It should go without saying, but being a responsible public lands user can help set an example for other RVers and help protect our public lands for generations to come. 

Never Overstay Stay Limits 

14 days is a decent amount of time for an RVer enjoying the area, and you can always just move to a different BLM district if you want to remain the same area. 

Leave It Better Than You Found It

Never dump your tanks or leave trash behind while boondocking. If you arrive to a campsite that was trashed before you, clean it up! It may not be your trash, but it is all of our responsibilities to keep this land clean, as public lands users. Anytime the BLM has to clean up a site, they’re using taxpayer dollars and already-strained resources to do a job that they never should have had to. 

While the everyday RVer or traveler may not be able to do anything about permanent encampments on public lands, we can definitely do our part to leave things better than we found them for the next camper and not contribute to the problem. 

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1 comment

  1. I see nothing but more trouble in the future. As more people have lost their jobs due to covid they have no place to live. Most of these people are already unfortunately what we now label as undesirable. They trash wherever they live, even if it’s in an apartment building. So when the government bans them from federal public land the problem is just shifted to the cities. They aren’t magically going to disappear.
    During the Great Depression of the 1930’s people even threw together Shanty Boats and lived on public waters. Back then people at least realized the poor and/or homeless had to live somewhere. Now it seems the idea is we are all entitled to live our good lives without having to see the people who don’t have good lives. N.I.M.B.Y. Well, they have to be in someone’s back yard, so to speak.
    It’s only going to get worse.

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