How to find your way to public lands

Story By: Adam Carr, Public Access Project Manager, Montana/Dakotas State Office 

It just got easier to find your way to public lands. 

Public Lands Access Geographic Information System (GIS) data is now available for public use. 

The data shows easements and patent reservations that provide public access to BLM-managed public lands within Montana and the Dakotas.  

Rocky trail leading off through green grass and a forest of trees. A sign to the right of the trail says "Entering Public Lands".
A sign marking the public land
boundary on the Limekiln Trail
near Lewistown. BLM photo

The web app will allow the public to easily identify where access to BLM-managed public lands exists. The GIS data may also be used by other agencies/partners, non-profit groups, and for-profit entities in the development of products they sell related to GPS-enabled mobile navigation and hunting apps.  

stacks of file folders on a table.
Stacks of BLM realty case files
similar to what were researched
to create the Public Lands
Access GIS data.
Photo by Seth Jackson

The Montana/Dakotas Public Lands Access Data was created from researching and creating GIS features from the legal descriptions of easement deeds and patent reservations stored in case files at field offices across the organization. It shows where BLM has perfected access rights that cross privately owned or other agency owned/managed lands to access public lands.   

An image displaying landownership by color and a BLM access easement that exists across a private road.
An image displaying landownership by
color and a BLM access easement (yellow
line) that exists across a private road.

Please be aware that you are responsible to ensure the roads/trails that you use to get to the access route is a legal public road.  Additionally, the access provided does not allow for use of the lands that they cross; only a legal means to access the BLM-managed lands that it leads to.   

Development of the data was part of a pilot effort that has now been implemented BLM west wide. 

The public can access the MT/Daks Public Lands Access Web App displaying the public access via the BLM Web App Gallery: https://blm-egis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=92ca6ede2e2145419dc116f606bd103c 

or the GIS data can be downloaded from the BLM GIS Navigator site: 

https://navigator.blm.gov/data?keyword=access&fs_publicRegion=Montana 

A Web App user guide is linked within the about text that pops-up when the Web App first opens or can be found here: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/docs/2021-09/Public_Lands_Access_Web_App_User_Guide_Final_508_0.pdf