In 1987, New Mexico passed the Pinon Nut Act to support the state's pinon nut industry. It is illegal in New Mexico for anyone to label and sell pine nuts from species other than those listed in the law under the label of pinon nuts. The law's purpose was to distinguish local pinon nuts from imported pine nuts. The law authorizes the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to examine pine nut dealers' records to verify that they are selling pinon nuts and not fraudulently labeled pine nuts from species not included under the law.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have three categories of harvesting -- incidental use, personal use, and commercial use. The following rules apply for these use categories in many parts of the Southwest.
Incidental use: Incidental use is the harvesting of pinyon nuts for consumption on the spot or later that day. Neither agency requires a permit for incidental use.
Personal use: Personal use is the harvesting of relatively small amounts of pinyon nuts not intended for sale. Personal use limits range from 25 pounds per year in Nevada and western Utah to 75 pounds per year in Colorado and northern New Mexico. Neither agency charges a fee or requires a permit for personal use harvesting.
Commercial use: Commercial use permits are issued when harvesters intend to sell their nuts or if they are harvesting large quantities for personal use. In Nevada and Utah, BLM field offices generally charge 25 cents per pound for commercial permits, with a minimum charge of $10. In Colorado, BLM field offices and national forests typically charge 20 cents per pound for commercial permits, with a minimum charge of $20.
A commercial permit from a BLM office in Nevada or western Utah authorizes the holder to remove pine nuts from the geographic area shown on the permit. Personal use harvesters are allowed to pick in areas covered under commercial use permits. Commercial pickers working on BLM lands in Nevada and Utah must record the quantity of nuts they harvest and turn the records into the BLM after the harvest is finished.
Commercial pinyon harvesting leases
In Nevada and western Utah, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service sometimes lease out commercial pinyon nut harvesting sites. The BLM field offices in Nevada began their commercial pinyon lease program during the mid-1990s when Colorado pinyon supplies became scarce and demand for singleleaf pinyon increased.
Most BLM field offices and Forest Service ranger districts in Nevada and western Utah now use a combination of sealed bid leases and standard commercial permits. Sealed bid auctions are held for pinyon nut leases in areas where competition is intense for prime pinyon nut sites. Auctions generally take place in August, just before the harvesting season begins.
Guidelines for pinyon nut harvesting vary from place to place, but typically the BLM and U.S. Forest Service require the following:
1. If establishing a major camp, commercial pickers must coordinate first with the agency responsible for managing the land where the camp will be located.
2. Commercial pickers can't construct or blade existing roads unless they obtain prior approval.
3. Vehicles must stay on existing access roads and trails.
4. Cutting of live trees for firewood or to obtain cones is prohibited.
5. Open fires must be built in areas that are free of shrubs and trees.
6. No campfires can be left unattended.
7. Wildfires should be reported immediately to the nearest BLM or Forest Service office.
8. Prehistoric sites, historic sites, and artifacts must be left undisturbed.
9. Excessive disturbance of vegetation and soils is prohibited.