House passes split version of land rights bill

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BISMARCK, N.D. - It was the only bill the North Dakota House got to Thursday afternoon: Senate Bill 2315.

The bill has had dozens of proposed changes and tweaks, trying to find a balance between land owners and hunting enthusiasts in a long standing feud of how much access hunters should have to land.

In a session-long battle, the House passed a version of a bill to restrict access to land to everyone except hunters. The House removed sections about letting landowners post their land physically or online.

The bill was split into two questions, with more contentious debate coming around the sections to possibly treat all land as private. Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, R-Wahpeton, says the bill was an attempt to get “non-legitimate hunters”, or people who think hunting is a right instead of a privilege, to the table to work out a compromise.

“Those legitimate hunters would come to the table. Those legitimate aren't concerned with whether land is opened or closed because they ask permission,” said Schreiber-Beck.

She adds there were many revisions trying to placate the “non-legitimate hunting” people, but said in the floor discussion she doesn’t think there’s any pleasing them.

Rep Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, took exception to the term, saying the culture in North Dakota and laws frequently lead them to enter land without permission.

“There are circumstances where you’re driving down the road in the 70s. We’re hunting more grouse than pheasant but you might see a little covey and boom, you go get them. You make sure you take care of the land and you leave everything as good or better than when you left it.”

The bill will need more work between both chambers before something is sent to the governor.