North Dakota Senate passes bill on property rights |

North Dakota Senate passes bill on property rights

Hunter Advisory Group would consist of:

a. The agriculture commissioner or the commissioner’s designee

b. The director or the director’s designee

c. The chief information officer or the officer’s designee

d. A representative of the North Dakota Association of Counties

e. Two members of an agriculture committee; and

f. Two members of a sportsmen committee

The North Dakota Senate approved SB 2315, a bill to update the state’s trespass laws.

The bill as written gives landowners another option for “posting” their land.

Current North Dakota law provides that hunters and others can enter private property without permission unless the landowner has strategically posted “no hunting” or “no trespass” signs throughout the property.

The bill calls for the creation of a database where landowners can “post” their land as open, closed, or open with permission. If landowners choose not to take part in the database “posting,” they can still post their land with traditional signs. If they do neither, their land will remain “open” to hunting, but not to others.

“It helps establish relationships that will enhance what we have now.” Julie Ellingson, NDSA executive vice president

While current law allows people to access private property, whether they are hunting or not, if the land is not physically posted. The bill clarifies that anyone who is not hunting is not allowed to enter private property without permission.

North Dakota’s agricultural groups have worked in unison to gain support for SB 2315, which is at least the seventh attempt at such a change.

North Dakota Stockmen’s Association executive vice president Julie Ellingson said in her professional career, she’s seen this topic discussed in committee many times, but she’s never seen a legislative body pass a bill such as this. So she is encouraged.

Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, the bill sponsor, proposed a “hoghouse” amendment to the bill last week to help ease concerns of some bill opponents. The Senate Ag Committee worked through the proposed amendment, making several changes, then eventually approving a new, revised hoghouse amendment, even making a few additional changes to the bill during the committee meeting and then giving the bill a do-pass recommendation in 5-1 vote.

Ellingson believes the amendment came because of the significant amount of communication legislators got from constituents. “We’re talking thousands of e-mails. This might be the hottest topic this legislative session,” said Ellingson.

The original bill language would have eliminated codified language requiring landowners to post their land in order to expect privacy, and called for a database of land open to hunting.

The new language of the bill also provides options other than posting land. It requires the state, with the help of an advisory board, to create a more detailed database, wherein landowners designate their own land in one of three categories: 1. Open to hunters, 2. Closed to hunters or 3. Open to hunters with permission from the landowner or lawful occupant.

The new bill language requires that the database use color coding to indicate which option each landowner has chosen. Several counties will be included in this database by 2020, and all counties will be included by Sept. 1, 2022, says the bill. Land is considered “open unless posted” until the county it is located in is included in the database.

Ellingson says, for example, there could be a map that shows land that is open to hunters as green, land that is closed to hunters as red and land that is open to hunters with permission from the landowner or lawful occupant as yellow.

When the database is complete, land will still be considered “open unless posted” if a landowner does not participate in the designation process.

The bill also calls for consideration of a legislative management study during the 2019-2020 interim to look into access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping and related issues.

North Dakota law requires guides to obtain permission in writing before accessing private land for hunting, unless the land is designated “open to hunters.”

Landowners can still physically post their land with traditional signs, and under the new law, hunters may not enter land that is posted in accordance with the law unless he or she has permission, regardless of the designation of the land in the database. A hunter is guilty of an infraction for a first knowing violation and a class B misdemeanor for a second and subsequent knowing violation of this law.

The bill also simplifies language regarding non-hunter trespass, by clarifying that those who enter private property without permission will considered to be trespassing.

Ellingson believes this bill creates more connectivity between landowners and hunters. “It helps establish relationships that will enhance what we have now,” she said, pointing out that the database is a tool that has never been available before, and will not be available without passage of the bill.

She believes getting the bill through the House will be a “heavy lift,” but she’s optimistic that landowners and sportsmen alike can be pleased with the changes it provides.