I cannot believe I’m about to write this. There was a time when I wouldn’t have. But I’ve changed. So, here we go… I support a “posted North Dakota”. Yes, I support Senate Bill 2225, which is sponsored by state senator, Donald Schaible (R – District 31).
As it stands now, property owners across the state must post their property if they want to keep people off of it. That is typically done through the use of a “No Hunting” or “No Trespassing” sign. Failure to post the property means that anybody can access it without being in violation of any criminal trespass laws. That means if you spot that elusive buck, ringneck pheasant, flock of geese, etc. during season – and there’s no sign prohibiting it – you can pursue that animal without permission.
This morning the North Dakota Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on SB 2225, which would make it so all private land in North Dakota is considered posted. Multiple agricultural groups and private landowners favor the bill. Other groups favoring hunting and outdoors activities came out in opposition to the legislation due to the amount of access they would lose to property .
The reality is that a small minority have ruined it for everyone else. Whether it’s the agitating faction within the #NODAPL movement or the slob hunter, some landowners are tired of the poor treatment they often discover on their property, and who can blame them?
There is a touch of sadness that goes with supporting a bill such as this. When I was a boy, the amount of property that was posted was very small compared to today. My father tells me that when he was a boy he could ride his horse for miles without ever even encountering a posted sign, and the landowners didn’t care if you accessed their property or even hunted on it. Unfortunately, we no longer live in the North Dakota I grew up with, and we certainly don’t live in the one my father grew up in.
Nevertheless, I cannot help but recognize the private property rights of landowners. Furthermore, they shouldn’t have to bear the burden of keeping people off their land. After all, how would you like it if someone pulled up into your yard, jumped out, and had a picnic on your lawn? Should a person have to put up a sign to prohibit such a thing? I don’t believe so.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this debate is the wedge that is often driven between hunters and landowners. It’s a divide that simply isn’t necessary. Many landowners welcome hunters. They just want to know who is going to be on their property. Fair enough. Hunters, on the other hand, want to be able to access property and participate in the age-old tradition that has blessed families and friends and helped to balance our natural resources for generations.
It’s unlikely we will ever return to the North Dakota my father grew up with. And unless we can find a way to bridge the divide that is prevalent in many places between hunters and landowners, we will likely continue to see the decline in young people taking up hunting.