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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 444-2074 | Fax: (406) 444-2684
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Rights of Way/Easements


The Rights of Way Section of the Real Estate Management Bureau oversees the grant of rights of way and easements across State Trust land as well as acquisition of rights of way and easements for State Trust lands.  Rights of way are generally granted for lineal uses that are not appurtenant to a specific property or properties, such as public roads and utility lines.  Easements are generally specific to a particular piece of property and granted for uses such as private access roads to single family residences or for farm and ranch operations and concentrated use of a singular area, like public parks and associated facilities. 

What types of rights of way/easements can the State issue?

State statute provides the basis for what types of rights of way/easements can be granted by the State Board of Land Commissioners.   Generally, the following purposes are allowed:

  • Private Access Roads to fee simple title landowners for residential, farm/ranch and timber management purposes
  • Public Access Roads under the jurisdiction of a City, County, or State
  • Electric/Telecommunications Lines operated by a utility company
  • Oil/Gas Pipelines operated by a utility company or industrial corporation
  • Water/Sewer Lines and Systems operated by an organized district or municipality
  • Public Parks and Facilities managed and maintained by an authorized entity
  • Other uses, such as encroachments of buildings and/or other facilities, however penalties for trespass use may be applied

What is the application process and potential costs?

There are various application processes and associated policies and guidelines for rights of way or easements involving State Trust lands.  In all cases a potential applicant needs to work directly with the local DNRC office that manages the county or counties the proposal is in so that the appropriate application form and any required materials, such as surveys, are considered.  By doing so potential applicants will avoid unnecessary costs and delays in processing the proposal request.     

Further, there is a $50 application fee to process the proposal and additional compensation for the use of the State Trust land will be assessed.  Such compensation will be determined after review of the application materials and will not be less than $100.  Compensation is generally a one-time payment over the life or term of the easement, but additional assessments may be imposed at the discretion of the State Board of Land Commissioners.

Does the State acquire access to landlocked Trust lands?

Yes, the DNRC actively pursues opportunities to acquire access to State Trust lands.   The Right of Way Section has a dedicated State-Wide Access Acquisition Specialist specifically for this purpose.   The DNRC seeks reciprocal opportunities with private landowners and our industrial cooperators to secure access to each party’s respective lands.  Additionally, the DNRC has entered into a cost share agreement with the United States Forest Service that allows each party to reciprocate access and share in the cost of maintenance for use of roads within our intermingled ownership.  For more information on the access acquisition program, please contact the DNRC’s representative at 406-751-2256.

Can rights of way/easements be assigned?               

Yes, all rights of way/easements issued by the State are assignable, however any such assignment must be on the forms provided by the DNRC and must be approved by the Director.  Assignment documents may need to be crafted specific to the purpose and use outlined in the right of way/easement.  Please contact your local DNRC office for more information on the assignment process and whether a standard or special form is needed.