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Senate Bill 2315

Supporters of Senate Bill 2315 show their support during a hearing at the North Dakota Capitol on Friday. At center right is Morton County landowner Fred Helbling, who supports the bill.

Over the years a number of attempts have been made to change the law on posting land. At present, landowners must post no trespassing or no hunting signs to keep people off their property.

Two years ago the Tribune Editorial Board supported Senate Bill 2225, which would have reversed the law. Under the bill landowners would not have had to post land and hunters would need permission to go on the land. The bill failed.

This year Senate Bill 2315 seeks to achieve the same goal. The Tribune feels the arguments in favor of the change are still valid. We urge the Legislature to approve SB2315.

What the Tribune wrote in 2017 still reflects our position.

“If you don't want someone hunting on your land you must post no hunting or no trespassing signs. For some landowners it means buying and posting dozens of signs, maintaining and replacing them when they wear out. Not everyone posting their land wants to keep hunters out, they just want to know who is on their land and when.

"It bothers many landowners that they must post their land to keep people off. There can be a variety of reasons they don't want unannounced people on their land. They could have livestock grazing, crops, they want to limit the number of hunters or they may have decided there's not enough wildlife on their land for hunting. They are managing their land and feel they know what's best for it.”

During Friday’s Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on SB2315 many of the same arguments were aired as in the past. Landowners endorsed the bill as being supportive of their rights and hunters opposed it as an effort to keep them out.

Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, sponsor of the bill, said the measure would require hunters to get permission from landowners to enter their property or be charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass. The bill also would create a database of private land open to hunters.

Again, how the Tribune editorialized in 2017 remains valid.

“The Tribune believes the bill could improve relations. Conscientious hunters often contact landowners when the land isn't posted to confirm it's OK to hunt. They often get tips on the best places to hunt from landowners. Many hunters make their contact before the season opens and there are many longstanding arrangements between hunters and landowners. Requiring hunters to make the contacts shouldn't be a hardship. The state Game and Fish Department also helps arrange contacts between hunters and landowners. Social media makes it easier for hunters to find available hunting land.

“Landowners shouldn't have to take the extra step and expense of posting their land to keep it private. Signs won't keep the bad hunters out just as they apparently didn't keep out some people involved in the protest camps. The majority of hunters, if they know they must get permission, will do so. It doesn't mean they will quit hunting.

"Changing the law doesn't mean land won't be available for hunting. It just means the burden falls on hunters to get permission, which many already do. It's a reasonable change the Legislature should approve.”

The Legislature should do what they failed to do two years ago and approve the change. SB2315 should be adopted out of fairness to landowners. We don’t think it will harm relations between landowners and hunters.

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