A Different Approach – Boulder Access

A different approach – PLWA asks BLM to negotiate access near Boulder

Back in 2004, a private landowner attended a BLM travel management plan scoping meeting, where he learned that 1/16th section of land, adjacent to his, was owned by the BLM. He proceeded to file a claim in 2014 to a 38 acre lot of BLM land, in Jefferson County, southeast of Boulder, adjacent to Forest Service public lands. This caught the attention of PLWA, who investigated the situation.

PLWA first filed a protest of the landowner’s application. But, BLM dismissed PLWA’s protest, claiming that PLWA lacked standing to object to the issuance of a patent to the landowner because PLWA did not claim title adversely. BLM also held that 43 C.F.R. 4.450-2 did not apply to the approval of the application because “there is no further action that is proposed to be taken by BLM.”

PLWA appealed the Montana Bureau of Land Management decision, and petitioned for a stay of BLM’s decision dismissing its protest. BLM responded to PLWA’s petition for stay and filed a motion to dismiss for lack of standing. On appeal, the Interior Board of Land Appeals ruled in favor of PLWA and denied the BLM’s motion to dismiss, holding that that the BLM’s action was subject to protest.

In May 2018, the Interior Board of Land Appeals addressed the merits of the landowner’s claim. The Board affirmed the BLM’s decision to approve the application to transfer of title from the public to the landowner.

PLWA has since asked BLM to negotiate an easement of approximately 1,500 feet for either trail or road access across this tract to the National Forest boundary before the title is transferred to private ownership. PLWA President Bernard Lea wrote the letter to the Office of Hearings and Appeals, acknowledging receipt of their decision, including the denial of PLWA’s appeal of the proposal to transfer ownership of the land.

Lea explained, “The public has used this public access point to enjoy the use of approximately 50,000 acres of National Forest and BLM administered lands west of State Highway 69.” Lea continued, “The loss of this access will be detrimental to the public who have used this access since it was discovered to be BLM lands in 1985.”

Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA,
is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.
The Internal Revenue Service has made a determination that PLWA qualifies as a tax- exempt
organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that it is a public charity.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice.
Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.