By Kay Braddock
Of the 159 public access requests for roads leading through deeded property, 79 signed easements have been returned, according to Prairie County roads rights-of-way project manager Gary Pfiefle.
Second request notices are being mailed out to property owners who have yet to respond, while new requests have also been mailed.
Pfiefle, who first headed up the project last year, has made his way through public access easements for roads leading through nearly all federal and state lands within the county.
Easements for roads leading through federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management haven’t cost the county anything, while easements through state lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation have. That’s because finances raised from state trust lands are used to fund Montana’s public schools and court rulings have determined that the trust must be compensated monetarily.
Prairie County has so far paid DNRC $17,483 for easements of about 33 miles of roads leading through state lands throughout the county, equaling to about $525 per mile.
This has drawn the ire of some landowners at recent public meetings who have complained that no monetary compensation is being offered to those property owners where roads run through deeded property.
County commissioners have stated publicly that the road rights-of-way project is an attempt to ensure access to lands throughout the county. Access to deeded property has become an issue throughout the state as stricter lending practices are being enforced. Most lending institutions will no longer offer loans for property where no public access is available.
Published March 17, 2010