Many thought that this legislative session would be the one where landowners finally had the burden shifted from them to keep people off what is supposed to be their private property. But it wasn’t to be so for SB 2225– known as "Posted North Dakota". Not only did the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee basically gut the bill by amending it to a pilot program, but the Senate floor defeated it by a vote of 28-17.
In it’s original form, SB 2225 would have removed the obligation of the landowner to post their property to keep people off of it. In a nutshell, it would have considered all property as "posted". With the defeat, things will remain as they are… if you don’t want people on your property, you need to put up signs that say so and then pray they stay up.
Though SB 2225 did not accomplish it’s intended purpose, it did accomplish one thing… it drove the wedge a little deeper between some landowners and outdoor enthusiasts. As a sportsman myself, I can’t say that I blame landowners for being a tad upset about the defeat. The message was clear. Some folks think they have the right to be on property that is not theirs. Now I realize that message wasn’t verbalized in that way, but it was certainly implied by some.
I cannot help but think of the landowners in Morton County, where Dakota Access Pipeline protesters harassed them for months. In some cases law enforcement couldn’t even utilize trespassing charges in their arrests, because protesters had removed signs nearly as quickly as landowners had put them up. That left many protesters having other charges dropped against them, because the cases on those charges simply weren’t strong enough to pursue.
Now I realize that the DAPL protests are a rare and unique circumstance in North Dakota. But the principle remains the same… landowners shouldn’t bare the burden of signage to keep people off the property that is supposed to be theirs in the first place.
Should outdoor enthusiasts be surprised if they see even more posted signs going forward? I don’t believe so. Should we be surprised if access for hunting is even more difficult to come by? I don’t believe so. But when that happens, let’s not blame the landowners. Let’s remember, that we are sometimes our own worst enemies.
Let’s do ourselves and the outdoor traditions a favor… respect landowners, be courteous, and be grateful. The future depends on us.