My first experiences with difficulties accessing Forest Service land occurred while hiking and camping. A road would look on the map as if it were a public road, but there would be signs that said “private road.” I never thought of it as a broader issue, but once we were invited on a rare and wonderful field trip from the Regional Office to the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, to a district where this happens quite a bit. I wrote about this in a previous blog post here in 2011.
What I heard from folks on the AR was:
If you talk to them, you will find out some of the problems facing public lands-neighbors attempting to cut off access to the public, through
land exchanges, trespass and subsequently being granted the land through efforts of their Congresspeople, putting gates on public roads, signing public roads as private, removing Forest Service signs, and probably other approaches I have not yet heard about.
On the field trip, we heard about a couple of different issues:
Neighbors trying to keep people from legally accessing federal land through signage and illegal fencing.
Land exchanges and trespass settlements that effectively cut off public access.
But there are also issues that I heard about later from reading:
Access roads not existing in the first place.
Owners of property not agreeing that the FS access is legally OK.
Here is a quote about capacity to deal with access issues in Montana in a 2015 High Country News article here:
But the bad news is that partnerships are becoming more necessary as the Forest Service is hit with tighter budgets and staff reductions. Dennee can remember a time, as recently as a decade ago, when each of Montana’s eight national forests had a lands specialist dedicated to improving and safeguarding public access. Now only three staffers oversee access issues for the national forests and grasslands extending over the greater part of Montana and into North and South Dakota. Meanwhile, younger staffers coming up through the ranks lack the necessary expertise, he says.
“We have (many) willing landowners who want to work with us to resolve access needs,” Dennee told me, “but we can’t keep up with the demand.”
I’ve also previously written about this Montana group, the Public Lands and Waters Association, that specifically works on this issue.
Finally, I found this 2013 report “Landlocked: Measuring Public Lands Access in the West” from the Center for Western Priorities, which includes the map above.
So here’s my question: everything I’ve found so far is about the Rocky Mountain or intermountain west. Do these kinds of access issues (especially those with adjacent landowners) with National Forest land occur in California, Oregon, Washington or in the North Central, Eastern or Southern States? I am looking for personal experiences or studies, from employees, retirees or the public. Any help would be greatly appreciated!