ND Capitol

The burden of keeping trespassers off of N.D. private lands remains up to landowners following the end of the 2019 N.D. legislative session.

Currently, the public may not enter lands that are marked with “No Trespassing” signs. If private lands don’t have signs, the public can enter without asking for permission. That worries private landowners who often welcome hunters and others but want to know who is on their land. There is a fear that someone will get hurt, that damage could be done, or that it would be easier for trespassers to get away with illegal actions. Landowners are also concerned about “game cameras” being hidden and used on private lands.

Senate Bill 2315 would have required individuals to ask for permission before entering someone else’s private lands. The bill ended up not passing in the House on the final day of the 66th Legislative Assembly with 44 yeas and 48 nays.

“Unfortunately, there is no immediate relief for landowners,” said Julie Ellingson, N.D. Stockmen’s Association executive vice president. “This has been a disappointing loss, and a discussion that’s not only consumed thousands of hours over the last two years, but over decades, as a conversation that has been going on in our state for a long time.”

N.D. Farmers Union also expressed concern that the bill did not pass, said Kayla Pulvermacher, N.D. Farmers Union Director of Legislative and Member Advocacy.

Ag groups wanted to change the law so all land would be presumed closed without permission, but agreed to a compromise in an effort to get some relief for landowners.

Among the versions considered over the 76-day session was one that called on the state to develop and operate an electronic database listing private areas open or closed for hunting. If that bill had passed, the electronic listing would have been another mechanism for landowners to post their land.

“Farmers want to have the conversation and feel the respect that comes along with having a conversation where hunters talk to them, and ask if they can hunt on their land,” Pulvermacher said.

Ag groups were pleased that a bill (House Bill 1021) passed that requires legislative management to study “access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping, fishing, and related issues, including trespass violations and penalties.”

The study committee, comprised of legislators, landowners, sportsmen and non-voting representatives of the ag department, Game and Fish Department, Association of Counties and Information Technology Department, will make recommendations to the 67th legislative assembly in 2021.

In addition, before Aug. 1, 2020, the N.D. Information Technology Department and the Game and Fish Department will establish an electronic posting and hunter access information system in up to three counties.

Another passed bill, House Bill 1503, makes it illegal to use game cameras on someone else’s land. Written permission is needed, and the camera needs a tag indicating the owner’s name, address and phone number. This is another bill that was initiated by the Stockmen’s Association.

“It is very concerning when landowners come to their private property and find these game cameras that don’t belong to them, and they don’t know to whom they do,” said Ellingson.

Other ag-related N.D. passed bills

- North Dakota passed a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to amend federal laws to allow for standards and criteria that differentiate food products derived from animal products from those derived from lab-produced cell-cultured meat products.

- The farm residence property tax exemption was amended to include operations in which 66 percent or more of the annual gross income comes from farming activities, including gross income of a spouse if married, during the two preceding calendar years. Previously, the tax exemption was unavailable if off-farm income totaled more than $40,000. The new definition of “farmer” mirrors that used by the Internal Revenue Service.

- Beginning Aug. 1, freeze brands, as well as hot brands, are acceptable legal ID options for cattle in North Dakota.

- Senate Bill 2344 was amended to protect the economic well-being of people engaged in agriculture production, while preserving and facilitating exploration of subsurface pore space with an approved agreement, an oil and gas lease, or as otherwise permitted by law. Pore space is defined as, “a cavity or void, naturally or artificially created, in a subsurface sedimentary stratum.” North Dakota Farmers Union believes this bill hinders landowners’ rights, and that they should be compensated for the use of land.

- The N.D. Legislature agreed to provide up to $20 million in cash and $20 million in bonding to support the development of the Agricultural Products Development Center. The one time funding is for constructing a products development center. This includes an updated meats lab as well as an updated cereals lab for the NDSU campus in Fargo.

- A passed bill, Senate Bill 2345, relates to animal feeding operations and zoning regulations and defines an animal feeding operation as a lot or facility, other than normal wintering operations for cattle and aquatic animal production. This bill hopes to create clarity for livestock producers, political subdivisions and state regulators on the steps involved in permitting an animal feeding operation. It was designed to support animal agriculture development while maintaining local control. It also clarifies the responsibilities of the Department of Environment Quality vs. local political subdivisions, whether a township or county.

- Passed Senate Bill 2177. This bill clarifies that, in cases related to animal neglect or abuse, animal owners have the right to make their case before a court determines the outcome of the animals. It also calls for an official brand inspection to be conducted in cases of cattle, horses and mules to assure that there is an accurate accounting of the animals and their owners.