EP73 | Is Wild Camping Legal? Overlanding & Recreating on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Lands

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Outdoor Recreation Planner” for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), Erik Lundin, joins us on this episode to discuss all things associated with recreating and adventuring on BLM lands. 

Whether we’re overlanding, fishing or hunting, bicycling, heading out on horseback, riding motorcycles, river running, or studying songbirds, Erik will help us answer fundamental questions like these:  Where can I camp? Is this trail open or closed? What do I do with my poop? Can I have a campfire here? 

Erik takes joy in providing clear, actionable answers to these questions and more so that all of us recreating and adventuring BLM lands can do so confidently.

In this episode, Erik further shares how to discover the best recreational opportunities on BLM lands to suit your particular outdoor interests, taking a close look at the BLM’s “Multiple-Use” philosophy and at S.R.M.A.s (Special Recreation Management Areas).

Finally, learn how you can volunteer to make a difference in keeping your favorite BLM recreational areas clean, healthy, and open to further public use.


Part 1 (0:40-8:30) We welcome BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Outdoor Recreation Specialist, Erik Lunden, onto the Podcast!  Erik grew up recreating in the American West and has spent his lifetime recreating on public lands. He is currently employed with the BLM as an “Outdoor Recreation Specialist” operating out of Ennis, Montana, where he also serves as a River Ranger for the BLM on Montana’s famous Madison River. Erik is an accomplished whitewater rafter turned avid overlander. He is on the podcast today to share his expertise about recreating on America’s expansive BLM lands.

Part 2 (8:30-16:31) What can Overlanders learn from Whitewater Rafters? Before he got into overlanding, Erik racked up years of experience as a whitewater rafter, becoming skilled in Class 5 whitewater. Jimmy & Erik spend time discussing the similarities between whitewater rafting and overlanding and what overlanders can learn from the whitewater rafting community when it comes to “Leave No Trace” / Tread Lightly! practices.

Part 3 (16:32-21:05) Advice from the BLM on Managing Human Waste While Camping:  Similar to whitewater rafters operating in a limited area along river corridors, trails popular with overlanders are facing an unprecedented amount of use. Managing human waste has become a problem for public land managers, including the BLM. Erik shares best practices when it comes to managing human waste while recreating on BLM lands and practical approaches and tools to accomplish this task so that trails and primitive camping areas have a better chance of remaining open for all of us to continue to enjoy.

Part 4 (21:05-25:20) Will the increase in popularity of overlanding lead to more regulation on American public lands? Jimmy examines the evolution of regulation in the whitewater rafting community and wonders if the same will happen to overlanders in popular areas. Erik explains what needs to be done to avoid increased regulation and shares little-known details on how public land is potentially impacted by human activity. 

Part 5 (25:21-30:18) What is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), exactly, and how does it differ from other Federal Land Agencies? Erik provides an overview of the varying federal land management agencies in the United States, explaining how they fundamentally differ from each other, and details the BLM’s “Multiple-Use” philosophy which is at the core of the BLM’s land management practice.

Part 6 (30:19-38:18) What Recreational Opportunities exist for Overlanders on Public Land and how do we find them? The BLM manages more federal/public land than any other agency in the U.S. There are myriad recreational opportunities on these lands for overlanders. Erik explains what some of these opportunities are and how to best find them in the specific areas you will be recreating. Jimmy and Eric discuss how popular apps like onX Off-Road can be helpful in finding these areas/opportunities.

Part 7 (38:19-47:07) Is that Trail OPEN or is it CLOSED? Erik explains how you can best tell if a trail on BLM lands is open or closed. How to interpret trail signs, utilize paper maps, and work with popular apps are all discussed as means of knowing whether or not the trail you’re driving is, in fact, open or closed. 

Part 8 (47:08-50:40) Where can I CAMP on BLM land? Many of us love to “wild camp” when we’re overlanding or even just using a vehicle to enjoy other forms of recreation on public lands. Wild Camping is what the BLM refers to as “Dispersed Camping.” Erik explains the BLM’s approach to managing wild camping, helping you know where wild/dispersed camping is possible and legal and where it is not. 

Part 9 (50:41-End) What can we do to help the BLM keep our trails, camping areas, and recreational areas clean, healthy, and open? The people working for the BLM work extremely hard to keep BLM lands clean and healthy. Given the enormous amount of land BLM staff has to manage, they appreciate everything recreators do to help. Erik shares what citizens can do to assist the BLM and explains what kinds of different volunteer activities are offered by the BLM throughout the year. 

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