Easements in the Spotlight, As Colorado Forests Go Residential
"If land ownership could be seen from the air, western Montana would look like a checkerboard: Parcels of national forest alternate with 1.2 million acres of private land, grants made to railroads in the late 1800s. Those grant lands are now part of the 8 million acres owned nationwide by Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber Company.
With logging in decline, Plum Creek sees its future in real estate. Last year, land sales made up about one-quarter of company revenues. But Plum Creek has a problem: It's not clear whether the company's customers can legally access their Montana properties over national forest roads.
For decades, the company has held easements on national forest roads that allow it to haul timber, but the question is whether those easements automatically permit residential access as well. Montana counties and conservation groups say they don't."