Public Lands Law Opens Access, Criminalizes Locked Gates

Aug 28, 2019

Millions of acres of public land throughout our region are inaccessible to the public. A new law in Nevada is trying to fix that.

This year, the Nevada Legislature made it a criminal offense for private landowners to block access to public lands on any public road that runs through their property. Some ranchers aren't happy about it, as they say it empowers the public to trespass on their land.

But this issue is bigger than just one state law.

More than 9.5 million acres of federal lands in the West are landlocked by private land. That's according to a study from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX, a hunting GPS app developer. Joel Webster is with the TRCP.

"There were three states that seemed to have a lot of landlocked federal lands: Nevada, Montana and Wyoming. Wyoming has the most at 3 million acres of federal land locked, Montana at 1.5 million and Nevada at 2 [million]," he says.

This year, Montana passed a similar law that authorizes the state to pay each private landowner up to $15,000 to allow for public land access. Idaho also proposed a similar measure this year, but that was not signed into law.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.