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Axing Access: Emergent Limits on Public Lands Development

John C. Martin, Sarah Bordelon, Proceedings of 57th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2011)

Like so many federal land management issues, access is site-specific. The governing statutes, surface management agency, local ecosystem issues, environmental attitudes, and type of development sought all play a role in whether—and with how much difficulty—access across federal lands will be granted. However, since the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s that saw the adoption of various conservation laws, most notably the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA),2 access has become more difficult to obtain. With a few notable exceptions, the last decade has been no different, and current trends indicate that development interests seeking access across public lands will continue to encounter procedural and substantive challenges.
This chapter provides an overview of current trends related to access across federal public lands for resource development. Section 27.02 provides a brief overview of historic access policies and the substantial changes in the federal governments approach to access issues in the 1970s, before discussing the primary statutes and legal theories governing access issues. Section 27.02 concludes by summarizing some of the key access issues in the first decade of this century. Section 27.03 provides an overview of relevant access issues for each of the four major land management agencies: the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service,