Exploration and Prospecting
The LQD regulates minerals exploration by dozing or trenching using motorized equipment, or a suction dredge whose intake diameter is greater than 3 inches or whose motor is greater than 10 h.p. LQD does not regulate recreational exploration involving minor surface disturbances that are infrequent in nature.
If the exploration project does not meet the definition of “recreational”, a License to Explore for Minerals by Dozing (LE) will be required by LQD (see Guideline 16 and Guideline 19). If federal lands are involved, a Plan of Operations from either the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will be required.
Hand panning is the only activity allowed in any Class 1 stream, including the Sweetwater River. Class 1 waters are those surface waters in which no water quality degradation by point source discharges will be allowed. A complete listing of Wyoming Class 1 waters may be found in Attachment B of LQD Guideline 19.
Licenses to Explore renew annually and an Annual Report is required. Both the application and report forms are available here. A License to Explore does not authorize the production or sale of minerals. Only those materials necessary for assay and testing purposes may be removed.
If you are unsure whether a License to Explore is required for your specific gold exploration site, please refer to An Introduction to Regulations for Gold Prospecting, or call the nearest LQD District office (link to LQD District map).
Prospecting in Sage-Grouse Core Area
Depending on the project location, there may be additional requirements per the Governor's Executive Order 2019-3, Greater Sage-Grouse Core Area Protection.
The Wyoming Core Area map can be viewed here: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/WGFD/media/content/PDF/Habitat/Sage%20Grouse/sg_coreareas_v4_names.pdf