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Rights-of-Way Across National Forests

Date of Issuance:

The Act of June 4, 1897, does not grant a right of access to owners of land surrounded by national forests, other than actual settlers, and the Secretary of Agriculture has discretionary authority to deny such access unless a right otherwise exists.

The common law doctrine of easement by necessity does not apply to land owned by the federal government, but a right of access may be implied from the terms of a federal land grant in some circumstances.  No statutes currently modify any such implied right found to exist.

Absent a prior existing access right, the Secretary of Agriculture may deny “adequate access” to land within a national forest wilderness area, but must offer a land exchange as indemnity.

Updated July 9, 2014