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Acquisition of Access Rights and Rights of Way on Fee, Public Domain, and Indian Lands

Theodore H. Frison, Proceedings of 10th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1965)

One of the most frustrating problems encountered in oil and gas operations is to be denied the right of access to the site of contemplated activity. All too frequently, plans are carefully formulated for the drilling of a well only to find at the last moment that someone failed to obtain the permission necessary for unrestrained ingress and egress to the well site. Sometimes, in the first flush of success over the completion of a wildcat well, and in a rush to capitalize on such success, proper safeguards guaranteeing the continued use of access routes are overlooked only to be more forcibly brought to light at a later date. This paper will attempt to explore the general problem of acquisition of access rights and rights of way as to fee, public domain, and Indian lands and will, insofar as state constitutions and statutes are concerned, be limited to those Rocky Mountain states whose bar associations are member organizations of the Mineral Law Foundation. No attempt will be made to discuss the rights of mineral owners to the use of the surface and the multitudinous problems arising between the dominant and servient estates where a severance of the mineral and surface rights has created separate estates. That [218] problem has been the subject of many excellent articles,1 and no useful purpose would be served by a repetitive discussion at this time. Although unique access prob