Thursday, June 01, 2017

Those who trespass against us

Tamara Choat

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution secures our right to own private property. However, as many North Dakota residents have experienced the hard way, ownership does not guarantee control of who goes on your land. Last session in the North Dakota Senate a bill that would fortify the rights of private property owners against trespassers failed. Current North Dakota law states it is landowners' responsibility to post clear and detailed "no trespassing" signs at every entrance to their private property from public roads or public land. The name of the person posting the land must appear on each sign in legible characters, signs must be readable from outside of the land, and posted not more than 880 yards apart or at each entrance or gate. SB 2225 would have removed the posting requirement and funded a pilot program, starting with five counties, to create an electronic register. All posted land and all land available for hunting, as well as optional contact information of landowners, would be in a digital database. The bill failed 17-28, and North Dakota remains "open until proven closed." And as many landowners can attest, signs have a way of simply disappearing. Pete Hanebutt is the director of public policy for the North Dakota Farm Bureau. He said the concept of posting is unique to North Dakota. "The idea that if you don't see a posted sign you have the right to walk on someone's property is really different for this part of Midwest." The debate on trespassers came to a head this past year in light of the DAPL protest. "Those protestors had no concern for the rule of law in all aspects," he said. "They shamelessly violated private property rights, stole cattle and horses, and trespassed at their own whims. "Ranchers and farmers would put up signs and they would be torn down the next day. We were fed up. This issue has always been in our policy book, but it became a priority issue for us this year. You shouldn't have to see a sign to not trespass – anyone can make a case that they can't see a sign."...more

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