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Access on Federal Public Lands

Daniel A. Jensen, Severed Minerals, Split Estates, Rights of Access, and Surface Use in Mineral Extraction Operations

To a large extent, the value of a mineral deposit is directly tied to its accessibility. It does little good to acquire a mineral deposit if access problems prevent development or render the deposit uneconomic. The number of articles previously written on the subject of access to mineral properties 1 is a testament to the ongoing importance of the issue. As operational and environmental restrictions grow ever tighter, access issues will continue to intensify. An understanding of mineral access law is essential in today's environment. The purpose of this paper is to present a practical discussion of access issues associated with oil and gas leases on federal public lands, with an emphasis on procedures for obtaining access authorization. Issues involving both access to and access on and across the leasehold are addressed. While this paper focuses on the most common type of federal public lands, 2 other papers at this Institute will address special categories of federal public lands. This paper is geared toward federal oil and gas leases, and does not address access to or across other types of mineral leases, private lands, state lands, Indian lands, or mining claims.