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One federal agency's common sense approach to clothing optional recreation

It's not always bad news. While circumstances like the National Parks Service decision to eliminate clothing optional access to beaches at Fire Island National Seashore attract lots of attention from members of the naturist community, the fact is not all federal agencies are quite so resistant to the idea of accommodating those who enjoy clothing optional recreation. Consider this example of a federal public lands management agency that takes a much more reasonable approach.

Map of BLM California Desert District
US Government image | Public domain

From time to time the Bureau of Land Management establishes supplementary rules for users of public land the agency manages. This is done in the interest of protecting national resources, providing safe recreational experiences and minimizing conflicts among users. The California Desert District of the Bureau of Land Management located in southern California established such supplementary rules in June 2011. The rules apply to all BLM-managed land in Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego Counties, California.

What makes the publication of some supplementary rules by a BLM district of interest to naturists is the fact that in this instance, the rules give consideration to those who enjoy pursuing nude recreational activities on federally-owned public lands and make reasonable accommodation for it. Thus, people are at liberty to go nude on portions of BLM-managed land that is under the jurisdiction of the California Desert District without fear of being criminally prosecuted or officially harassed for doing so as long as they restrict nudity to the areas designated by BLM.

[100,000 signatures could lead to more clothing optional access: Sign the petition]

Prior to the publication of the supplementary rules, the California Desert District of the Bureau of Land Management followed a well reasoned and orderly process. First, Interim Final Supplementary Rules were published on June 25, 2010. The agency then conducted an environmental assessment and also solicited participation from interested members of the general public by publishing a Notice of Interim Final Supplementary Rules for Public Lands Managed by the California Desert District and opening up a 30-day public comment period on issues, concerns, potential impacts, alternatives and mitigation measures.

During the comment period, the BLM received 41 written comments and the agency gave serious consideration to all relevant comments during the preparation of the Final Supplementary Rules. Among the comments received were those from individuals who advocated that clothing optional recreation be accommodated and that the BLM regulate only sexual or lewd acts, not simple nudity.

To the credit of the BLM decision makers in the California Desert District, they listened and were receptive to permitting those who enjoy clothing optional outdoor recreation to pursue their interests where it was deemed appropriate. Included in the Final Supplementary Rules published on June 11, 2011, and presently in effect, nudity is permitted on district lands with only these reasonable and understandable restrictions. Public nudity is prohibited only at all:

  • Developed camping and picnicking areas containing items such as a table or toilet facility,
  • Visitor centers, and
  • All ORV (off road vehicle) open areas.

As a result there exists extensive opportunities for the enjoyment of nude recreation among the 10.7 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management's California Desert District.

This is a welcome example of how things should work between naturists and the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture land management agencies like the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The diversity of recreational area users can be easily accommodated and user conflicts avoided with just a little cooperation and common sense.

The Final Supplement Rules established by the BLM California Desert District should be used as a model by all federal land management agencies. They represent precisely the spirit of the "We the People" petition that asked for more designated clothing optional areas on public lands.

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