Rights-of-Way and Special Access


Below you will find information on the Rights-of-Way (ROW) or Rights-of-Entry across State School Trust Lands application process.

Advance planning is an important part of obtaining an easement, permit, special access permission, or oil and gas surface damage agreement across School Trust Lands in North Dakota. These ROW requests are made most typically completed by energy industry professionals on behalf of an interested party.

Other groups filing ROW applications include:

  • federal or state agencies
  • survey/engineering companies
  • political subdivisions
  • universities
  • other groups and individuals

Early first contact and application submission are crucial for timely processing.  Access requests typically move through the process more quickly as less items are generally required. The Surface Division offers an online application and status tracking system to make the process easier for interested parties; email is the preferred form of communication.



Other Resources



Please review the frequently asked questions (FAQs) below for help answering initial inquiries on the ROW application and approval process

What types of ROWs are granted on School Trust Lands in North Dakota?
  • Oil & Gas Surface Damage Agreements
    • (Activities completed under mineral leases (“on-lease activity”) such as oil well site, etc.)
    • (NOTE: pipelines granted under an SDA are non-assignable to other companies.)
  • Easements
    • (Activities not completed under the state mineral leases (“off-lease activity”) such as pipelines, utility distribution or transmission lines, public roads, off-lease well sites, saltwater disposals, tower sites, wind turbines, etc.)
  • Permits
    • (Activities such as temporary surface layflat lines, environmental or route surveys, aggregate prospecting, seismic, temporary back slope construction, access roads, etc.)
  • Access Permission
    • (Activities such as research projects, organized events, activities with no ground disturbance, etc.)
Is there an application fee for ROW requests? If so, can it be paid when completing the online application with a credit card?
  • Yes… and no. There is no application fee for on-lease activities. There is an application fee for off-lease activities. Currently, the application fee is based on the number of section quarters impacted by the project. The price is $50 per quarter, with a $100 minimum per application.
  • Currently, application fees are unable to be collected during the application process. NDDTL is pursuing the possibility of this function in the future.
  • NDDTL is able to receive wired funds but must be notified prior to the transaction.
What is required to complete survey work on Trust Lands?
  • An online application from the company (Grantee) (or the survey/engineering company on behalf of the company) for each proposed project and,
  • An active “Planning and Preconstruction Survey” permit must be held by the survey/engineering company completing survey work.
  • Currently the Planning and Preconstruction Survey permit has a permit consideration of $500 and is valid for five years. There is a sample Planning and Preconstruction Permit in the sample documents section.
  • ND DTL must approve the proposed route prior to survey work.  Route approval may require an onsite meeting with NDDTL to determine if an acceptable route is present.  This is necessary to decrease the likelihood of having to re-survey the area and decrease review time for the Department.
What is considered when NDDTL reviews a proposed ROW?
  • NDDTL reviews the Financial benefit to the trusts;
  • Availability of alternate encumbrance site or route;
  • The least environmentally damaging site or route regardless of property ownership;
  • Physical stability of the landscape;
  • Other potential future uses for the trust lands, including urban development;
  • Potential mineral and other material development including oil, gas, coal, construction aggregate, sodium sulfate, chemical substances, metallic ore, or uranium ore;
  • Feasibility for reclamation; Maintenance of existing wetlands and water flows;
  • Any cultural, historical, archeological, and paleontological resources;
  • Habitat for federally listed threatened and endangered species;
  • Location of the proposed route or site in relation to section lines, quarter section lines and corridors;
  • Potential liability to the trusts;
  • Applicant’s past encumbrances on trust lands;
  • Applicant’s financial stability;
  • Any other information relevant to the application which would assist in the determination.
Who receives Easement and Surface Damage Payments for projects on Trust Lands?

Consideration payments should be settled with NDDTL after most or all the adjacent private landowners have settled as consideration offers are based on rates paid to private landowners in the area. This is because the State does not want to "set the market" but must also receive a fair payment for the trusts.

Payments must be sent directly to NDDTL. NDDTL will determine the surface lessee's share of the damages, if any, and make the payment to our tenant.

Grantee must pay or repair all damages that may occur to surface tenant's crops, fences, buildings or other improvements caused by construction or maintenance of the project.

Does NDDTL sign Company issued forms?

NDDTL does not sign Company issued documents or forms; only documents issued by NDDTL will be signed by the Commissioner. NDDTL may be able to issue an acknowledgment letter to satisfy bill receipts or other agency requests, depending on the nature of the request.

Do political subdivisions need a road easement for section line roads? What about other access roads across School Trust Lands?

If a political subdivision managed section line road is contained within the statutory width (33 feet on either side of the section line), no easement is required. If the road is outside of the statutory width, the additional acreage must be obtained via easement or a permit for temporary back slope area must be issued.

Access road permits are required to access well pads, private residences, section line roads that a political subdivision does not manage, etc. An individual or company cannot simply build a road across School Trust Lands. Please contact NDDTL for specific circumstances and needs prior to project commencement to obtain the proper permissions.

Does NDDTL have required Construction and Reclamation specifications?

Yes, construction cannot begin until the Commissioner has signed the appropriate documents. The terms and conditions for construction are defined the approved and signed document.

NDDTL requires a specific native seed mix to be planted for reclamation. (PDF)

NDDTL has a reclamation reporting program: Reclamation Reporting

NDDTL’s reclamation contact is Cory Barth

If you need further assistance beyond these FAQs, please the Department of Trust Lands and request the Surface Management Division or send us a question online.