The BLM reminds visitors to recreate responsibly and safely on public lands during Memorial Day weekend and throughout summer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As the nation reflects on the sacrifices made by United State Armed Service members who died serving our country, people will be heading outdoors for Memorial Day weekend to visit America’s public lands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Open spaces provide many recreational opportunities, such as fishing, swimming, camping, rockhounding, backpacking, hiking, boating and off-highway vehicle use.
In California, the BLM oversees 15 million acres of public lands that support the agency’s multiple-use mission, which includes 25,000 miles of off-highway vehicle routes, 1,750 miles of designated trails, and 356 miles of rivers for recreation.
“Visiting your public lands is a great way to experience the outdoors and the natural environment with family and friends. Please get outdoors and enjoy yourselves this summer while taking the proper precautions and bringing the proper attire for all weather conditions,” said BLM California State Director Karen Mouritsen. “Visitor safety is our number one priority.”
The BLM would like to offer some summer safety tips for public land visitors:
Streams and Rivers, the Pacific Coast, and Trails
Water-related rescues are common during summer as public lands visitation and recreation rise.
However, this summer season also presents some additional risks; as the temperatures rise streams and rivers in California are running colder, higher, and faster than they have in recent years, due to the melting of heavy mountain snowpack.
The frigid waters can cause a person’s muscles to cramp quickly, affecting their ability to swim and get out of the water. Keep in mind that although the air temperature may be hot, the water temperature below a river’s surface can be much colder and can cause hypothermia quickly. It is advised to learn how to recognize hypothermia and follow all signs that warn of dangerous river conditions or fast-moving currents.
Kayakers and rafters should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device and follow California boating laws and regulations. Additional protective items can include a helmet to protect the head from impact injuries and water shoes to protect the feet from floating debris, sharp rocks, or slipping hazards.
Watch children and pets closely; keep them away from fast-moving water, be sure they have flotation devices and stay close to them while they are playing in or near the water.
When hiking the Lost Coast Trail in the King Range National Conservation Area, watch out for sneaker waves and never turn your back on the ocean while on the beach. The BLM also advises the public to stay high up on beaches out of the wet sand area. A tide chart is critical for the Lost Coast Trail, as some areas are impassable at high tide. Review this Lost Coast Trail Tide Safety brochure for more information.
The public should also remain cautious when visiting steeply sloped beaches. North Coast beaches are not swimming beaches; the extremely cold water can paralyze your arms and legs within minutes without proper cold-water gear, making it impossible to keep your head above water. Check out this beach safety brochure for more information on how to stay safe on North Coast beaches.
Before trekking on BLM-managed trails, it is best to research the area and plan the visit. Follow the “Leave No Trace” principles to minimize impacts to public lands and wildlife and consider a hike’s abilities and physical condition. Underestimating the difficulty of a trail can lead to disastrous consequences, especially for a beginner hiker. When venturing out on a hike it is always best to tell someone at home where you are going to be and send them GPS coordinates. Never wonder off a designated marked trail and know before you go by checking the land-management agencies website ahead of a trip for closures, alerts, or warnings.
While exploring the California desert or any other hot region, be mindful of extreme temperature changes; it is not uncommon to see more injuries and fatalities in the summer due to heat stroke or dehydration since temperatures often soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to bring more water than you think you’d need and remember to sip often. To find out information about any known safety hazards or public lands closures, contact the local BLM field office, or stop by a visitor center before departure. And, no matter what, never leave children or pets alone in a hot car for any amount of time.
Always dress appropriately for the weather, wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Check with local weather reports on the day of a hike and continue to check weather reports regularly when backpacking, especially in a slot canyon. Many public land resources, including social media pages, provide flash-flood warnings and adverse weather updates. And finally, keep in mind that campsites or backpacking with food can attract wildlife. As such, secure food and other odorous items such as garbage in a "bear box," or in an approved bear-resistant food canister to attract less interest.
Check with online resources, such as blm.gov/visit and www.recreation.gov, to find more information about a trail’s level of difficulty, closures and hazards, water safety tips, and recreation and shooting restrictions.
Camping and Backpacking
When camping on BLM-managed public lands, never leave a campfire unattended; always carry a shovel and water; and check weather forecasts and possible fire danger restrictions before leaving home. Nearly 90 percent of wildfires that occur in the United States are human-caused. To obtain training on campfire safety or to obtain a California campfire permit, visit https://permit.preventwildfiresca.org/.
Always be aware of the wildlife in the area, especially when backpacking overnight in an area where bears or other predators are known to inhabit. The BLM encourages backpackers and campers to bring a bear canister to store food. Using a bear container is the simplest and most effective way to prevent bears or other wildlife from being attracted to a camp and accessing food. It is also a good practice to bring a GPS handheld satellite communicator or a smartphone to use in case of an emergency in the backcountry, navigation devices and maps, first aid supplies and light sources.
Hunting and Recreational Shooting
Before heading out to hunt on BLM-managed public lands, take a hunter safety training course and follow the required safety measures for hunting and recreational shooting. Also, check weather conditions and red flag warnings; avoid shooting in hot, dry, and windy weather; and follow local guidance relating to shooting and fire restrictions. Hunting and fishing are regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The BLM California website offers information on public lands fire and shooting restrictions at https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/california/fire-restrictions. The BLM recommends obtaining a current map and directions to open hunting or target shooting areas.
Upon arrival, be aware of dry vegetation, and dead trees, and avoid driving or parking vehicles in tall grass. Park and camp away from dead trees and branches that can blow down and fall. Use appropriate trailer pins and hitches to keep the chains from dragging and creating sparks. Remember, one less spark means one less wildfire. Finally, be mindful to avoid shooting on or across roads, waterways, or trails.
Use of Fireworks
Fire danger in California is always a concern and temperatures will continue to rise and remain high for another celebration this summer – the 4th of July weekend. Possession or use of fireworks is prohibited on all BLM-managed public land in California. This includes the “Safe and Sane” devices commonly sold at fireworks stands.
Public lands provide great opportunities for all-terrain and utility-task vehicles, including dirt bikes, side-by-sides and four-wheelers. Vehicle safety should always be everyone’s top priority. Planning should include leaving a trip itinerary behind with a friend or family member. The itinerary should include the trip location and expected return time.
Also, be sure off-road vehicles are registered and in good operating condition. Make sure tires are in good shape and suitable for the terrain being encountered. If riding a motorcycle, ATV or UTV, wear a helmet and protective clothing, stay on designated routes and trails, and make sure the spark arrester (if required for the type of vehicle) is in good working order. Keep in mind it is illegal to exceed a speed limit or operate a vehicle recklessly within 50 feet of a camp/large groups of people, where the speed limit is 15 mph.
Finally, visitors should follow state and local public health guidance, come prepared, be flexible, and respect other users as well as natural and cultural resources on public lands. Updates about COVID-19 are posted at www.coronavirus.gov.
For more information on “2023 Fee Free Days” or on how to obtain an “America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass” for access to federal lands and waters across the country, visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/passes. There is now a lifetime pass available for military veterans and Gold Star families to access public lands. Have an enjoyable summer!
- NOAA Watches, Warnings or Advisories for California: https://alerts.weather.gov/cap/ca.php?x=1
- NOAA Tide Prediction: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/tide_predictions.html?gid=1393
- Reserve a campground: http://www.recreation.gov/
- U.S. Forest Service alerts: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r5/alert-notices
- Recreate Responsibly, Water Safety: https://www.recreateresponsibly.org/watersafety
- Wildfire information: https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm
- Tread Lightly principles: https://www.treadlightly.org/learn/
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