Rights-of-Way

Each year, many individuals and companies apply to the BLM to obtain a right-of-way (ROW). A ROW grant is an authorization to use a specific piece of public land for projects such as roads, utility lines, oil and gas lines, and communication sites. The grant authorizes rights and privileges for a specific use of the land for a specific period of time. Generally, a BLM ROW is granted for a term commensurate with the life of a project. Typically, grants are issued for a 30-year term and most have the right of renewal.

There are three different fees associated with a ROW grant: application processing, monitoring, and rental fees. The first fee is a one-time, non-refundable application fee to reimburse the United States for the cost of processing the application. The processing fee must be paid when an applicant has received notification of the fee determination after the application has been filed. The second fee is a one-time fee to reimburse the United States for the cost of monitoring compliance with the terms and conditions of a ROW grant. BLM will monitor construction of a project as well as the operation and maintenance of a ROW until the termination of a grant. The third fee is an annual rental fee which is required for the use of public lands. The rent for most linear ROW grants is established from an administrative schedule based on land values in the project area and the amount of land occupied. For non-linear ROW grants, an actual appraisal by a BLM appraiser establishes the rental amount. A policy was implemented in 1997 that established a rental schedule for communication sites.

It can take several months to a year or more to process an application for a ROW. It is essential to plan ahead. This means that one should coordinate with the Gunnison Field Office early in the planning stage of a project. Right-of-way applications are processed in the order in which they are received, i.e. "first come, first served." We typically have a backlog of pending applications so it would be unrealistic to expect a quick turnaround time. We often cannot complete the necessary clearances until the ground is free of snow so an application received in December may have to wait until June before clearances are done. The purpose of our clearances is to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and make sure the ROW does not impact archaeological sites, endangered species or other key resources.

Once the clearances and environmental assessment are completed, we may offer a ROW grant subject to terms and conditions specific to the project. This would be a non-exclusive ROW so the ROW holder would not be able to prohibit use of the ROW on public land by other users unless otherwise authorized by the BLM.

The project proposed on public lands must meet basic design criteria which would be discussed in a pre-application conference. The width of the ROW must be adequate to accommodate all of the anticipated activities for construction, operation and maintenance. If the preferred route covers challenging terrain, a formal survey and engineered design of the proposed facility may be required.

Created by the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado
Point of Contact: Craig Blacketter
Last modified: December 30, 2004