Each year, thousands of individuals and companies apply to the BLM to obtain a right-of-way (ROW) on public lands. A ROW grant is an authorization to use a specific piece of public land for a certain project, such as roads, pipelines, transmission 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 the project. Typically, grants are issued with 30-year terms, and most can be renewed.
The BLM places a high priority on working with applicants on proposed ROWs to provide for the protection of resource values and to process the application expeditiously. A more complete explanation of the BLM ROW program is found in Title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 2800 and 2880. Copies of these regulations are available at all BLM offices. The BLM has also initiated efforts to streamline the application processing procedures (see Instruction Memorandum No. 96-27 and Instruction Memorandum No. 97-18).
Careful advance planning with BLM personnel who will be handling your application is the key to success. If they know about your plans early, they can work with you to tailor your project to avoid many problems and costly delays later on in the process.
If you are not familiar with local BLM jurisdictions, the best place to start is by contacting a BLM State Office. Each State Office oversees a number of Districts, which in turn oversee Resource Areas. Depending on your project, you may be working primarily with personnel at a BLM District Office or, more likely, at a BLM Resource Area Office.
Final Right-of-Way Rental Fee Regulations
In October 2008, the Bureau of Land Management announced final regulations that revise the rental fees it charges companies or individuals for rights-of-way so that these fees more adequately reflect changes in land values over the past two decades. The BLM undertook this rulemaking effort in accordance with Section 367 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which directs the Department of the Interior to revise the existing rental fee schedule for linear rights-of-way to reflect current land values. The BLM published proposed regulations and solicited public input on this subject in December 2007; the agency received 12 response letters and used these comments extensively in developing the final rule.