Thousands of North Dakota landowners have posted millions of acres of private land electronically through the first system of its kind in the nation.
The 2021 Legislature passed a law making electronic posting equal to physical posting and penalties, and defining a "fence." It also allows only lawful hunters and anglers to access fenced, unposted land, for hunting and fishing activities only. The law takes effect Aug. 1.
North Dakota's Game and Fish Department opened the system for electronic posting in May. The deadline to post was Thursday, in advance of fall hunting. North Dakota is the first state to make electronic posting available for private land, according to the governor's office.
The public is able to see the electronically posted land through a Private Land Open To Sportsmen guide, available at gf.nd.gov/maps/map-service-apps.
In total, 7,000 landowners posted 3.75 million acres around North Dakota, according to Game and Fish Information Technology Supervisor Brian Hosek. That acreage is about 8.3% of North Dakota's area.
In Burleigh and Morton counties, landowners posted a cumulative 79,249 acres and 153,694 acres, respectively, Hosek said.
Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, who brought the bill, called the participation "absolutely wonderful." He didn't know what to expect. He's glad to see the postings are "not just little pockets."
"It's pretty well spread throughout the whole state. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work and just a great team effort to get it to here," Erbele said.
Mark Swenson, who lives by the University of Mary, electronically posted three parcels of land totaling 500 acres in Burleigh County. Posting signs is hard for Swenson, who doesn't have much time to do it, and for his father, who is 85.
Swenson has different reasons for posting each tract: to keep nearby off-road motorcycle riders out of his field, to keep people from approaching his house off-road from the south, and to control hunting on his family's farmland.
He's been frustrated in the past by people hunting without asking. A hunter himself, he's never agreed with the past assumption that private land is open if not posted. He likes the electronic posting method.
Craig Keidel, of Mandan, posted about 59 acres near the Heart River north of 19th Street as "a second redundancy" to signs he will post. The hardest part of posting electronically was matching exactly with tax records' spellings, he said.
Trespassing has gotten worse with encroaching development, Keidel said. A bowhunter he's permitted on his land for 30 years has had his game cameras "messed with," he said.
Penalties under the new law include a $250 noncriminal offense for hunters, anglers and others trespassing on posted land, and Class A and Class B misdemeanors for more serious trespassing scenarios, such as property damage or refusal to leave. The maximum punishment for a Class B misdemeanor is about a month in jail and a $1,500 fine; for an A misdemeanor it's about a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
The Legislature's interim Natural Resources Committee also is expanding a 2019-20 interim study of electronic land posting in three counties to make the study statewide. Seventy-nine landowners in Ramsey, Richland and Slope counties participated in the electronic posting trial last year.
Erbele said the committee will take up the study sometime in late fall or early next year so as to "give the hunters their turn" at the new system and to gather data.
Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or email@example.com.