Hunter and Angler Access Preserved in North Dakota for Another Year

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager

Highlights:

  • In North Dakota, private lands that are not posted are currently accessible to the public for activities like hunting. However, hunters need to be aware of several changes enacted by bills that advanced in 2021.
  • North Dakota Senate Bill 2036 (SB 2036) - During the 2021-22 interim an ongoing study of access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping, and fishing will continue. The legislation also expands the online database for properties that are posted to every county in the state.
  • North Dakota Senate Bill 2144 (SB 2144) - Individuals are now required to possess a hunting or fishing license before accessing private property that is fenced in and not posted.
  • North Dakota House Bill 1113 (HB 1113) - Individuals need landowner permission prior to placing bait on private land.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners have worked with the North Dakota governor’s office, legislators, and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to protect access for sportsmen and women in North Dakota while respecting private property rights.

Why it Matters: Thousands of resident and non-resident sportsmen and women flock to North Dakota every year to chase upland birds and big game, and to fish the state’s renowned walleye fishery. The ability of the public to access non-posted private lands is one of the largest draws to the state. In terms of recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3), this system allows individuals the opportunity to experience hunting and fishing by providing easy and abundant access to land and waters within the state.  

Over the last several legislative sessions, public access to private land has been a hot button issue in North Dakota. Historically, private land that is not posted has been open and accessible to the public for hunting and fishing. This has caused some friction between the public and landowners in the state. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been working with the office of Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member North Dakota Governor Burgum, the North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to find a compromise that does not have negative effects on access for sportsmen.

Proposed legislation on this issue has ranged from closing all private lands to public access to being able to electronically close your land to hunting and fishing through an online database. In 2020, the online database was implemented, through a pilot program, in a handful of counties and was successful. Not much will be changing over the interim for sportsmen and women, but there are a few things they should be aware of if they live in or are planning a trip to North Dakota.

The first change is the expansion of the pilot statewide online database program where landowners can post their land. Senate Bill 2036 expanded the existing, albeit limited, database to every county in the state and landowners can either physically post their land, like they have in the past, or post their land as closed on the online database. Hunters will need to view this database before accessing private land to ensure that the land is open to hunting and angling. The second change follows Senate Bill 2144, legislation that closes all private fenced-in lands to individuals unless they hold a hunting or fishing license and are actively engaged in lawful hunting or fishing.  Finally, hunters should note that they now require permission from the landowner or landowner’s agent before placing bait on private land.  

Opportunities to access such a large portion of North Dakota’s private lands for hunting and angling is why the state is popular with nonresident sportsmen and women;  a privilege not afforded in many other states. Recognizing this, the sportsmen’s community should be respectful of private land and communicate our appreciation to landowners who allow access at every opportunity.  

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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