Mother Lode Field Office

Lands and Realty


Each year, thousands of individuals and companies apply to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to obtain a right-of-way. A right-of-way grant is an authorization to use a specific piece of public land for certain projects, such as roads, pipelines, transmission lines, and communication sites. The grant authorizes rights and privileges for a specific use of the land for a specified period of time. The BLM places a high priority on working with applicants on proposed rights-of-way to provide for the protection of resource values and to process applications expeditiously.

When you Do--and When You Don't--Need a Right-of-Way:

As a general rule, you do need a right-of-way whenever you wish to build a project on the public lands. You don't need a right-of-way for so-called "casual use." What kinds of activities are considered "casual use"? Examples include driving vehicles over existing roads, sampling, surveying, marking routes, traveling on existing roads to private property, collecting data to prepare an application for a right-of-way, and performing certain activities that do not unduly disturb the surface or require extensive removal of vegetation.

Depending on the specifics of your proposed activity, some right-of-way uses on the public lands can be either casual use, or use requiring a grant. It's a good idea to contact the BLM and discuss your plans before assuming your use is casual. The Field Office Manager can then make a judgement on the requirements in your particular case.

Examples are listed below of land uses requiring right-of-way grants. A right-of-way grant must be obtained before construction or use of any kind may begin.

Typical Land Uses Requiring Right-of-Way Grants:


Oil and Gas
Related Systems

Electrical Generation,
Transmission and
Distribution Systems

Transmission and
Reception Systems



conveyor belts
storage facilities


other electronics


Remember to Plan Ahead

You should arrange for your preapplication meeting well in advance of when you would like to start work on the project. Processing time for an average grant is 60 to 90 days. However, grants for complex projects can take much longer. Try to contact the BLM as soon as possible. The Field Office Manager and staff are ready to provide information, advice, and assistance to help you prepare an application.

Land Use Permits:

Permits authorize the use of public lands for up to three (3) years and the use involves little or no land improvement, construction, or investment. A permit conveys no possessory interest, but may be renewed when it expires. Common permitted uses include, commercial filming or still photography, apiaries (bee hives), geological and hydrological testing, and some military activities.

To apply for a land use permit, please arrange a pre-application meeting with the Field Office Manager or appropriate staff member in the BLM Office with management responsiblity for the land where the permit is needed. Please apply for your permits early. By law there must be a thirty (30) day waiting period from the time the application is filed to the time the permit can be issued.

Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP):

The Recreation and Public Purposes (R & PP) Act authorizes the lease or patent of public lands for recreational or public purposes to State and local governments, and to qualified non-profit organizations at a reduced cost. Examples of typical uses under the act are historic monument sites, campgrounds, schools, fire stations, law enforcement facilities, municipal facilities, landfills, hospitals, parks, shooting ranges, and fairgrounds.

The Recreation and Public Purposes Act was enacted by Congress as a recognition of the strong public need for a nationwide system of parks and other recreation and public purpose areas. Our expanding urban populations, increased mobility and leisure time, and higher standard of living have created a demand for more and better recreation facilities. By the same token, urban expansion and a growing population have increased the need for more public services.

Anyone intending to submit an application should have a consultation with our office prior to submitting the application. The consultation will cover such items as land status of an identified parcel, application filing requirements, application processing steps, and BLM policies and objectives. In addition, the management responsibilities for the lessee or grantee and the terms and conditions which may be required in a lease or patent, will be discussed, along with pricing policy, land use planning, and time frames for application processing. To find out more about the R & PP Act call the Mother Lode Field Office at (916) 941-3101.

Land Exchange Program - Can I Buy Land?:

The days of homesteading lands and obtaining government land for $1.25 per acre are gone. All of the old land laws used by our forebearers to settle the West have been repealed by Congress.

The BLM does not "sell" land outright. Under the authority of the Federal Land Policy and the Management Act of 1976, the BLM can dispose of public lands. The Department of the Interior´s preference for disposing of public lands is through the Federal land exchange program rather than competitive land sales. Lands that might be offered for disposal must be sold at full fair market value, that is, at a price comparable to similar private lands. The land exchanged is balanced on a dollar for dollar basis at fair market value, not acre for acre. The BLM tends to use a third party organization to do large land exchanges because the administrative costs are the same to process an exchange whether a quarter of an acre is exchanged or a quarter of  a million acres is exchanged.

Our office no longer maintains any type of mailing list that your name can be added to regarding land sales. If we decide in the future to dispose of public lands we will contact all adjacent landowners by mail as well as publish a Notice of Exchange Proposal in the Federal Register and the local newspaper.

Land Acquisitions:

The land acquisition strategy in the Mother Lode Field Office involves two primary goals.   First, lands shall be acquired if they possess unusually valuable or unique resources such as rare or endangered plant or animal species or habitat, unique soils, river frontage and riparian areas, wetlands, scenic vistas, cultural and historical resources, areas of exceptional recreation opportunities and other similar precious resources.

Second, lands that improve manageability of existing public lands may be acquired. This includes lands that increase access to public land or provide for a more contiguous land ownership pattern.  Acquisition may be by exchange, purchase or donation.  Fee title and easements are utilized  to acquire land or interests in land depending upon the circumstances.


Trespass is defined as unauthorized use, occupancy, or development of the public lands for any purpose where authorization must be obtained. Trespass activities have resulted in financial losses to the United States because of the loss of rental fees, road use and maintenance fees, and damage to the public land resources from misuse, abuse, fire, theft, vandalism, and negligence.

The BLM has tried to resolve cases involving unauthorized uses, most of which are unintentional, by working with the individual and negotiating an amicable solution. However, some trespasses are committed knowingly and willfully. In these instances the BLM attempts to obtain payment for the use of the lands and where appropriate, imposes civil and /or criminal penalties against those trespassing on the public lands. 

Trespassing includes dumping trash and debris, advertising signs, roads, storage, and occupying (living). If you observe any of these activities on public lands, please contact your local BLM office to have the activity investigated.