Legislation Introduced to End the Presumption of Access to Unposted Private Land

Tony Crotty carries back a couple of Canada geese during an early season hunt in North Dakota. (Bret Amundson/Forum News Service)

Earlier this month I wrote about a debate that was expected for this legislative session over the presumption of access to unposted private land.

Currently hunters and others can go on land that’s not posted. If land is posted, they have to obtain permission. That status quo put the onus on land owners, requiring that they opt out of allowing public access to their land instead of opting in.

As expected, legislation has been introduced to change that situation. It’s SB2315, introduced by Senator Robert Erbele (R-Lehr), and it would require that individuals get permission to access land (they could still access private land to pursuit of game they’ve already wounded).

Interestingly, the also includes language which would require the creation of an online database of private land the owners want open.

You can read the full bill below. This excerpt describes the aforementioned database:

I like this database. One complaint I’ve heard from many land owners objecting to this change is that they want their land open, and they don’t want to be bothered by a bunch of hunters asking permission for access. This database should help address that concern.

But I’d go further. Currently land owners post land they want to restrict access to. This legislation makes that restriction the default, so why not let land owners who want to open their land posting signs indicating as much?

Instead of posted signs all over the place, how about “open to hunt” signs for land the owners want open?

Adding that provision, I think, would make this legislation even more palatable.

Politically, though, it has an uphill battle. From a property rights perspective, the situation this bill creates is the way things ought to be. Land owners shouldn’t have to opt out of letting strangers come on their property. But outdoors groups are going to fight this hard, and mathematically speaker there are a lot more hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts who vote than there are landowners.

Here’s the full bill:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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