Land Access

Access to public and private land holdings within public lands.

Related resource topics for county planning include the following:



Map of Data

Download mxd

The ESRI mxd file of the services used to create the above map.

Resource Information

Common land access issues include:

  • Private land surrounded by or accessed through federal lands
  • Federal lands surrounded or accessed through private property
  • Private lands within designated wilderness
  • Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration lands within federal lands

MAG’s land ownership pattern is an equal mix of private, federal, and state lands. At issue are the cases in which land owned by one entity is surrounded by or accessible only by crossing land owned by another entity. The Surface Ownership and Administration data as well as the several road and route datasets can be used to identify access areas that cross other landowners.

The following table summarizes landownership by general owner category in acreage and percentage of total county acreage [1].
Land OwnerSummitUtahWasatchTotal

Access to land for recreational travelling using a variety of vehicles (mountain bikes, motorcycles, 4-wheel drive, etc.) and without vehicles (hiking, climbing, etc.) is a major issue of land access in the area.

County governments play a role in facilitating land access regardless of ownership. This is accomplished by acquiring and maintaining ROWs or easements across property. Counties also acquire and enforce access by participating in planning processes of federal and state agencies and via litigation.

The location of a properties boundary is an important part of land access. The BLM maintains the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). In Utah the latest GIS data update of the PLSS was in 2015, know as CadNSDI Version 2.0 2015. This latest version of GIS data is now available from Utah’s AGRC and can be viewed in this web map.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources maintains a recreation access mapping application online showing access locations for all types of outdoor recreation activity including hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, boating, bicycling, and ATV riding among other activities.  

Best Management Practices

Gaining or maintaining access to lands is typically accomplished through right-of-way. The process for obtaining a right-of-way is different for each type of landowner as each has specific administrative procedures, management objectives, and historical context.

US Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The BLM manages ROWs through resource management plans authorized by the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 [2]. Prior to FLMPA, ROWs on BLM lands were enabled by Revised Statute 2477 (Section 8 of the Mining Act of 1866) and are generally considered to be available for accessing property within and across US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, though this is not always the case. The Salt Lake Field Office manage the BLM land within MAG.

US Forest Service Roads (USFS)
Right of Ways on USFS lands are managed through the Forest Planning and NEPA process. The Uinta Wasatch-Cache National Forest established access goals for their management areas in 2003.

State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA)
SITLA is directed by state law to maximize commercial gain from their properties through sale, lease, or exchange [3]. Originally allocated to western states upon statehood by the federal government to support state institutions like schools and hospitals. Utah was given sections 2, 16, 32, and 36 in each township. The resulting checkerboard pattern of ownership means many SITLA parcels are surrounded by federal lands with limited to no access. Land transfers are a common solution to this situation. SITLA has a successful history of working with the BLM, US Forest Service, and private land holders to enable mutually beneficial consolidations of property.

Private Property
Just like access to private inholdings among federal lands is important, so too is providing access to public lands through private property. Counties have an obligation to ensure the ROW’s with historic access across private lands remain open. Additionally, as urban development continues along the Wasatch Front, counties should facilitate new public access to forest lands by purchasing easements across private property.

Counties can establishing new ROWs through private lands in three ways. First, for developing lands, counties can identify ROWs on the transportation component of the General Plan. With ROW’s identified, counties can work with developers to construct ROWs as the land develops over time. Second, counties can work with willing landowners to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution to purchase a public ROW or easement across property. Finally, in cases where landowners do not want a public ROW or easement across their property, counties can use eminent domain to condemn private property. State law enables the right of eminent domain for  roadways for public vehicles but not for recreational uses (78B-6-501 3f) [4]

Economic Considerations

The economies of counties within the MAG are closely tied to accessing public lands for both resource development and recreation. Physical access via roadways is required for the development and utilization of energy, mineral, or other resources. Of special concern are state inholdings managed by SITLA, and private lands surrounded by USFS properties.

Impact Considerations

Access is a pivotal resource management issue that balances resource use and resource preservation goals as well as public and private interests.

Another key issue is the balance of responsibilities and administrative costs between counties and other entities that require access into or through public lands.

Impacts to other resources, e.g. wildlife or water quality, may increase with increased or changed access.

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
Land Ownership
Surface Land Ownership; use Admin field to identify administrative agencyUpdated Weekly1:24,000State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
GIS Group
Public Lands Survey System (PLSS) from AGRC

GCDB Points
Utah webmap
Depicts the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) for the state of Utah and are based on Geographic Coordinate Data Base (GCDB) coordinate data.12/18/2012UnspecifiedUtah Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC)

More Information
SITLA Road Easements
Active county road easements and active valid existing rights1/1/20101:24,000State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
GIS Group
USFS Right of Ways
An area depicting a privilege to pass over the land of another in some particular path, pipeline, road, railway, private passage.

Map Service Metadata
March, 2016
1:24,000United States Forest Service,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,
Ruth Ann Trudell
GIS Database Manager
USFS Roads
National Forest System Roads

Map Service Metadata
Download Data; April 10, 2015

Service; Updated Daily
VariableUnited States Forest Service,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,
Ruth Ann Trudell
GIS Database Manager
Utah Road Centerlines

Major Roads

Minor Roads
Statewide Roads aggregated from local, county, state, federal and tribal governments aggregated and improved by AGRCData Download; January 16, 2016

Service publication dates undetermined
VariableThe statewide roads dataset is maintained by AGRC in partnership with local government, the Utah 911 Committee, UGIC, and UDOT.

AGRC Roads and Highway System


  1. SITLA. 2016. Land Ownership. GIS data obtained July 28, 2016.
  2. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Office of Public Affairs. 2001. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, as amended.
  3. Utah Administrative Code. Title R850. School and institutional Trust Lands Administration.
  4. Utah State Legislature. 2014. Title 78B Chapter 6 Part 5 Section 501.