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Electronic posting ahead

Trial program to start this year

North Dakota will begin an experiment with electronic posting later this year, meaning posted signs like this one could disappear in the coming years. Photo by Kim Fundingsland/MDN

It seems as if everything these days can be done on a mobile phone or, as Governor Doug Burgum refers to them, super computers. The small hand-held devices are influential to implementing a new program in North Dakota – electronic posting.

Current North Dakota law requires that landowners must post their land with signs indicating “No Hunting” or “No Trespassing.” In the past legislative session a committee was appointed to look into the possibility of enacting electronic posting to replace the signs that landowners have long used to serve notice that their property is closed to the public. An experimental plan is set to go into effect on Aug. 1 of this year.

An Interim Committee comprised of 14 members was appointed by the Legislature to “study access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping, fishing, and related issues, including trespass violations and penalties, recommendations regarding a land access database with the capability of electronic posting.”

The committee last met Jan. 22 in Bismarck. David DeWald, president of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation, is one of the citizen members assigned to help develop a trial program.

“The mood was to get this up and going shortly,” said DeWald. “We voted on three counties, Richland, Ramsey and Slope. McKenzie was interested but we were limited to three counties.”

Later this year landowners in Richland, Ramsey and Slope counties will be asked to participate in the pilot program that could eventually lead to statewide electronic posting in North Dakota. There’s plenty of concerns in implementing the trial program, mostly centered around how the project will operate and what the reaction of landowners, sportsmen and others will be.

“It’ll be available this fall to give it a try and see if it works,” said DeWald. “There will be a campaign to get landowners and hunters to use it and give it a try.”

There undoubtedly will be some glitches that will need to be addressed, but that’s to be expected with a trial program. At least two years of data will probably be required before any decision can be made as to whether or not electronic posting is feasible beyond the original three county area.

“We need to see how it is to use,” explained DeWald.

Hunting without permission and trespassing present different legal challenges, civil and criminal, each of which is being studied by the committee. Electronic posting may require a change to the Century Code to clarify the difference between the two, which would likely take into account hikers, photographers, bird watchers and the like.

The committee intends to propose to the next legislative session, in 2021, that the electronic posting trial program be continued through the 2021-2022 biennium and that additional counties be added to provide better evaluation of the program.

Some details of the program remain in the developmental stage. The North Dakota Information Technology Department and Game and Fish are tasked with producing an accessible information system for landowner and sportsman use.

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