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Shame on you, hunters

i would like to direct your attention to a Facebook page called North Dakota Lock Out.

It was created after the debate in the Legislature earlier this year over SB2315.

That bill would have reversed the backward presumption of public access to private land in our state.

Currently, those wishing access for activities like hunting have it unless the landowner acts.

This creates a burden. The landowner must put up signs compliant with state law at prescribed intervals to stop public access.

Even then, some ignore the signs, or vandalize them or remove them, and access the land anyway.

Many landowners in the state are fed up. They hoped for relief from the Legislature in the form of a bill that would have presumed the closed unless posted as open.

They didn’t get it.

The “lock out” movement was born.

Many landowners are shutting down access to their land until reforms to the law get passed.

You may not agree with what this group is doing, but you should pay attention to the stories they’re aggregating.

There are graphic pictures of mutilated livestock, incidents involving gates left open, fury over trash left behind and farm equipment vandalized.

Is it any wonder some landowners are angry?

During the debate over this issue, we heard a lot about the importance of outdoor sports — the much-touted economic impact.

That’s fair, but remember this: Hunting is a hobby.

Much of the land where that hunting takes place is part of somebody’s livelihood.

Their cows aren’t some side hustle. It’s how they feed their children.

Their crops aren’t scenery. They’re the difference between prosperity and bankruptcy.

The people who act irresponsibly on this private land aren’t just a nuisance. They are a threat.

“It’s not all, or even most, hunters,” you’ll tell me.

You’re right, but how many times does a rancher need to find a dead cow, how often should a farmer have to pick up garbage before it’s enough?

Politically, the hunters have the numbers. There are more of them than there are rural property owners and they have potent groups lobbying on their behalf.

The landowners have a trump card: It’s their land, and they don’t have to let any of you on it.

One of the most arrogant arguments I heard this year came from hunters insisting that farmers or ranchers who receive subsidies from the government shouldn’t be able to close their land off to public access.

I’d ask those making that argument, did you take a mortgage deduction on your income taxes? Did you get a tax credit of one form or another?

If so, I’ll be right over to wander around your backyard. Maybe I’ll take a dip in your hot tub and leave your shed doors open.

The best thing, for all of us, is for outdoors enthusiasts and landowners to find some common ground.

I’m afraid, though, that if the outdoors folks don’t cool it, access to land in North Dakota will continue to diminish — and it won’t matter what lawmakers do.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

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