Property rights bill dies in ND House

After a session-long discussion and passage through both the House and Senate initially, a bill to provide some fundamental property protections to North Dakotans passed the Senate yesterday but died in a 44-48 vote in the North Dakota House of Representatives today, April 26, 2019.

Current law allows anyone to access private land in North Dakota unless the land is strategically posted with “no trespassing” signs or “no hunting” signs. Although all North Dakota ag groups, and many individuals worked on various options to amend the law to allow for improved property rights, ultimately the “sportsmen” lobby prevailed.

Two different versions of the bill originally passed through the Senate and House, and were then discussed in conference committee. While one of the original versions would have required all people, including hunters to gain permission before entering private property, the version that was agreed upon by the conference committee required that the public (except hunters) obtain permission before entering private property, but held fast to the status quo that allows hunters to enter and hunt on private property that is not posted with “no hunting” signs.

Many property owners and organizations including the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, although disappointed that the bill was “watered down,” still urged passage of the bill, as a step in the right direction. NDSA Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson said it was the most success property owners had ever achieved in their effort to amend the law to allow for an expectation of privacy.

Many sportsmen groups lobbied hard for the defeat of the bill, saying that without the current allowance of access on unposted land, the number of active hunters would decline.

Rancher and District 26 Representative Kathy Scroch said last week the issue was at a boiling point. “The issue has been a hot one during this session,” she said. Scroch worries that landowners across the state are at a “flashpoint.” She fears that without some fundamental property protections, landowners will “lock the land up so tight, it will be a slamming of the door.

“We’ve been kicking the can down the road. I’m told landowners are going to take that can, fill it with cement and stick a big ‘no trespassing,’ ‘no hunting’ sign right in the middle of it.”

To see the final House vote, go to