Electronic posting: New law allows North Dakota landowners to post ‘no hunting’ using state site
In North Dakota, private land is considered open to hunting unless the landowner, or an individual authorized by the owner, posts the land with signs notifying hunters that no hunting is permitted unless they obtain permission from the landowner. This law has been a contentious issue between landowners and hunters or anglers.
But the passing of four Senate bills has North Dakota on the path for a trespass upgrade.
Senate Bill 2144, signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in April, gives landowners the option of posting their land electronically to an online database managed by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department instead of posting it physically with traditional signs. Landowners can visit https://gf.nd.gov/electronic-posting to post.
Hunters will have to check whether the land is open for hunting via the Game and Fish website or a downloadable app. North Dakota is the first state in the nation to allow electronic posting of private land.
Updating North Dakota’s trespassing laws on private land was one of the most divisive topics in 2019, but the main bill failed that year. However, the budget bill for the Information Technology department contained a study of land access and the use of the electronic database.
SB 2144 is the outcome of that study, and while supporters would like to see it taken a step farther, it is a start, according to Joe Schettler, ND rancher, NDSA director and member of the Interim Natural Resources Committee.
“I would still like to see private land as private,” Schettler said, “But it’s a step in the right direction.”
The bill also gives discretion to law enforcement by allowing them a range of options for charging a trespasser, from a non-criminal offense up to a Class A misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the offense, if they caused property damage or if they are repeat offenders.
The bill requires individuals to possess a hunting or fishing license before accessing private property that is fenced in and not posted, according to Schettler.
“The people who are not hunting, need permission,” he said.
SB 2144 also provides a definition of a fence and provides that a fence is a highly secure premise, which can lead to enhanced charges for criminal trespass.
The licensed and fence portion of the bill was the result of an alleged Dakota Access Pipeline protester trespassing on fenced land.
That case, State of North Dakota vs. Julian Bearrunner, raised the question of whether a barbed wire fence was enough to satisfy an enclosure requirement boosting a criminal trespass case from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. The Supreme Court upheld Bearrunner’s conviction for Class A misdemeanor. SB 2144 would clarify that entering through a fence that would hold livestock without permission would qualify as Class A misdemeanor trespassing.
North Dakota is the only state that still allows entering land unless posted.
The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, 44-2 and the House 89-3. The law goes into effect Aug. 1, 2021.
“Senate Bill 2144 is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we work together and harness the power of technology to find new, innovative solutions to complex problems,” Burgum said in a press release. “This bill will ensure that landowners and hunters alike have a convenient option for posting private land and checking its status, while also leaving the traditional posting process in place for those who wish to continue using it.”
Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, a champion for private property rights, last January, presented this bill and two others relating the North Dakota’s trespassing laws.
Senate Bill 2036 provides for the continuations of the legislative management study regarding access to lands and electronic posting. During the 2021-22 season, the ongoing study will monitor access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping, and fishing. The legislation also expands the online database for properties that are posted to every county in the state.
North Dakota House Bill 1113 requires landowner permission prior to placing bait on private land.
North Dakota’s trespassing laws make the state the place to be for hunting and fishing, but the new laws are a win for private property owners.
“Opportunities to access such a large portion of North Dakota’s private lands for hunting and angling is why the state is popular with nonresident sportsmen and women; a privilege not afforded in many other states. Recognizing this, the sportsmen’s community should be respectful of private land and communicate our appreciation to landowners who allow access at every opportunity,” wrote Nick Buggia, with Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation,
There are several tools available which hunters can use to determine whether land has been electronically posted when hunting. North Dakota Game and Fish offers map resources, mobile apps and printable maps that show lands posted electronically.
A benefit of electronic posting is the ability for hunters to determine a valid point of contact when requesting access. The name of the landowner, or authorized individual who posted the land is included on the map applications. The applications are free.
“There’s going to be a learning curve, for both hunters and landowners,” Schettler said.
May 18, 2021 – Open for enrollment of electronic posting
July, 15, 2021 – Deadline for landowners to digitally post land
August 1, 2021 – Electronic posting laws go into effect
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