Outdoor bills wrapping up at Legislature

No decision on No Trespass

One of the most hotly contested and high profile pieces of legislation at the current session of the North Dakota Legislature appears to be nearing the finish line. SB 2315, known as the “No Trespass” bill, has been the subject of many committee hearings that drew considerable response from sportsmen and landowners.

In its original form SB 2315 sought to remove a requirement that landowners post their land if they wished it to be off limits to the public. Opponents who appeared at committee hearings and spoke against the bill maintained that hunting in the state would suffer a crippling blow should the bill become law. The position of many landowners who testified at the committee level was that the need to post land against trespassers and hunters was not necessary, citing rights of no trespass on any private property.

North Dakota has long been the only state where landowners are required to post their property such as with “No Hunting” or “No Trespassing” signs. The issue has surfaced at previous legislative sessions without success.

During the committee process in the Senate the bill was amended from eliminating the posting requirement to creating an electronic database using color coding to identify private land “open to hunters, closed to hunters or open to hunters with permission.”

The database was to be maintained by an unnamed “hunters access advisory group” and begin operation in 2020 with all counties in the state to be included in the database by 2022. The database would not be exclusive, meaning landowners could still do physical posting of their land.

Any of several versions of the bill could emerge from the House Agricultural Committee, which was meeting on the matter late Friday. If amendments are made to the version of SB 2315 that passed the Senate 28-16, and subsequently passed by the House, the bill would go back to the Senate for a final vote. If the bill is not amended in the House Agricultural Committee and brought to the House floor in its current form, the vote on the bill would be the final.

A House vote on SB 2315 could come next week. Legislators have until Thursday, May 2 to complete their 80 day session limit. However, it is likely legislators will choose to wrap up the session as many as five days earlier, which would save days if needed for a call-back special session.

A bill that started out with one purpose has been amended so extensively that the original intent is no longer under consideration. SB 2058 was originally written to allow the use of infrared lights for night hunting. However, since the House introduced and passed a similar bill, SB 2058 has been transformed into habitat land improvement legislation with no reference to infrared lights.

The original bill passed the Senate 44-1 before being forwarded to the House which declared an “emergency measure” that amended the bill considerably, leaving no resemblance to the one passed by the Senate. The House passed the amended version 85-6, meaning the bill goes back to the Senate for an up or down vote.

Another bill still going through the legislative process and of great interest throughout the state is SB 2293. It is the aquatic nuisance species, or ANS bill. The bill, which would assess surcharge fees on hunting, fishing and watercraft licenses, would create an ANS fund to be used for “education, inspection and monitoring.”

SB 2293 passed the Senate 45-2 but was amended in the House and referred to appropriations. The final wording of the bill that will reach the House floor was not known as of late Friday. The Senate version was to assess an additional $6 for non-resident fishing and waterfowl licenses, $3 for resident fishing and waterfowl and $6 for all watercraft.

A bill relating to guidelines for law enforcement officers entering and searching buildings or private land was defeated. HB 1290 passed, 64-29, in the House but was voted down in the Senate 4-43.