After a loved one passes many families grapple with the question of what to do with the cremated remains. Should they purchase an urn to be put on the mantel and the house of the next of kin? Should they buy a niche? Or how about scattering their loved one over their favorite location? If they choose to scatter the cremated remains over one of their favorite locations, where is it legal to scatter cremated remains?
“Where is it legal to scatter cremated remains?” is probably the question I get asked the most. I get this question from family members as well as from funeral directors. After all it is hard enough to loose a loved one, you don’t want to be breaking the law when trying to honor them.
The answer to this question depends on the state you are in. Since I am based in California. I will answer this question based on California Law. Their are two main things to consider when looking at where it is legal to cremated remains; whether the scattering of cremated remains will be at sea or over land. I will break it down below.
For a scattering at sea California has very relaxed laws. It requires that it be only 500 yards off the coast. This is the only state I am aware of where it is legal to scatter cremated remains so close to shore. Most states require you to be 3 miles off the coast. California also allows us to scatter over inland navigable waters. That means that we can scatter cremated remains in San Francisco Bay. This also means that we cannot scatter cremated remains over a lake or a stream.
For scattering cremated remains over land, California has some of the toughest regulations. CA state law allows us to scatter cremated remains over land so long as we have written permission from a landowner or governing agency. This makes it a little tricky. In my business, A Journey With Wings, we get asked to scatter cremated remains over land all the time. We need to find out who has jurisdiction over the land and who in that jurisdiction can give us permission.
Many jurisdictions now have rules regarding granting permission for scattering cremated remains. Here is what we have found.
California State Parks
California State Parks has it in their statute to allow for scattering cremated remains. Permission is obtained from the District/ Sector Superintendent. The request is made in writing. Some Sectors have a simple form to fill out. The superintendent may deem it not appropriate. This may be the case if there are Native American remains present at their park.
The park superintendent grants permission for scattering cremated remains. The Superintendent can determine if it is appropriate and what area would be best for this. It has been my experience that each park superintendent has their own opinion and the ease of getting permission can change if there is a change in superintendent.
It has been my experience that National Forests will not give written permission for scattering cremated remains. Although they usually will give verbal permission and have a “don’t ask don’t tell policy”, unfortunately, this is does not make it legal to scatter cremated remains in National Forests in California.
Like National Forests, the Bureau of Land Management does not give written permission for scattering cremated remains over their property in their jurisdiction.
We have had pretty good luck with getting permission from Conservancies for scattering cremated remains. Conservancies are independent, so each must be contacted individually. We work regularly with the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Oftentimes if we can’t get permission for the exact location, there is a location nearby that will work. Give us a call if you have questions.
In our 15 years in business we have worked with many State Parks, National Parks and Conservancies. Please click here to go to our locations page.
The next questions I usually get is about how to fill out the paperwork for these locations. I will answer that question in my next blog. In the mean time, if you have any questions. Please contact us, (800) 407-6401.