Landowner Relations Program

Landowner Relations Forum

Landowner Relations Forum - December 2011


Principles of a Landowner Relations Program

Responsibility for creating positive relationships with the private landowners who allow public access to and use of their land must rest with the individuals who benefit.

Funding of any landowner relations program conducted by the government must come from all recreationists.

The state’s program must be consolidated in and directed by one state agency, with all state conservation agencies contributing staff and other resources.

Delivery of services must occur primarily at the grassroots through clubs and other organizations (ATV, Snowmobile, Fish and Game), and participating clubs and organizations should receive most of the money collected by the state for this program.

Services must include information and education (for both landowners and recreationists), enforcement of laws and rules governing users of private land, and assistance to landowners who encounter problems or have questions.

  • a) Landowner relations should be part of the mission of each conservation agency and especially the Maine Warden Service.


  • b) A free 800 telephone number should be available for landowners with questions or problems.


  • c) A website should be established and maintained with up-to-date and comprehensive information, and television and print ads should be used seasonally.

Elements of the program should have measurable results that can be tracked and reported regularly, including landowner complaints to and responses by the Maine Warden Service.

The State of Maine maintains a website for recreational access and a landowner relations program. At this site you will find the number for Operation Game Thief, the Maine Warden Service and other pertinent phone numbers. We at SAM co-operate with the Director of this program, along with other organizations such as the Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine (SWOAM); the Maine Snowmobile Association; ATV Maine; the Maine Farm Bureau; utility companies; woodlot owners, both large and small; land trusts, and on and on. Please go to this important site before you step into the woods and read up on landowners rights and the respect we need to give to these landowners who so generously allow access.

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Agency Policies on Accessing Private Land

In response to a legislative directive, each natural resource agency has created a policy governing when and under what circumstances their employees or agents enter private property. The policies were presented to the legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee in February.

The Department of Environmental Protection had the strongest policy – their employees don’t enter private property without permission, unless for a regulatory/enforcement action.

SAM was represented at a meeting in December, hosted by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with other groups including the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, to provide guidance as the department worked to create a policy. That policy was presented to the legislature and drew mixed reaction from landowner groups.

Jon Olson of the Maine Farm Bureau testified that farmers want agencies to obtain permission before accessing their land. They want to know the purpose of the visit, what information will be gathered, and if they will be provided with that information. They want written permission on posted land and verbal permission on all other land, before agency staff access farmland. Olson said federal regulations (GAP) requires farmers to document all people and wildlife that are on their land, so they have to know this information to protect the integrity of their crops, and keep them disease free and certifiable.

Tom Doak of the Small Woodland Owners Association, the organization that proposed this process, explained the group’s purpose in wanting agencies to create these access policies. “It’s not a landowner rights issue, it’s a landowner respect issue,” said Doak. He complimented DIF&W in its effort to bring all interests to the table to discuss the issues, prior to creating their new policy. Both Doak and Olson asked that the policies be applied to all agents and contractors of the agencies, not just to employees.

The different approaches taken by each agency begged the question of why a policy governing all agencies would not be appropriate and effective.

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Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
ADMINISTRATIVE POLICY REGARDING RESPECT OF PRIVATE PROPERTY

The personnel of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, when engaged in their official activities, will respect the desires of landowners regarding access over and across private property when the landowner has made his or her desires known. Consequently, before Department personnel enter private land that is posted to “NO TRESPASSING,” the verbal permission of the landowner, a member of his or her immediate family, or agent, must be obtained.

Department personnel responding to emergencies will be exempt from this requirement. Where the landowner has not made his or her desires known, a reasonable attempt will be made to obtain verbal permission from the landowner or a representative of the landowner (if known) or verbal notification (your name, purpose for entering private property) will be given to an occupant of a home or business, if present, in the immediate vicinity of your point of entry onto private property.

The verbal permission of the landowner, a member of his immediate family, or his agent must be obtained before crossing over or through any pasture or other enclosed area containing livestock or other domesticated animals.

Department personnel will respect the rights of the landowner, will complete their tasks in a professional and timely manner, and will not engage in extraneous activities that are not part of their assignment.

Under no circumstances should any markings or placement of signs be done without landowner permission, except when posting public health advisories or regulations.

Individuals involved in law enforcement, investigation of environmental permit applications or compliance, or safety operations will not be required to seek or obtain landowner permission. A warrant is required under some circumstances.

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A Solution to Conflicts and Competition for Recreational Access and Use of Private and Public Lands

We must understand what motivates each of us and drives the conflicts we’re suffering over our outdoor recreational pursuits, if we are going to figure out how to resolve those conflicts. Here are my personal suggestions (these should not be taken as the suggestions of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine).

Understandings

Hunters must understand that nonhunters fear for their safety during hunting seasons – and must have places they can enjoy where hunting is not happening.

Nonhunters must understand that hunters have experienced a lot of posted land and fear that this trend will continue, crowding them into smaller areas. Hunters believe they can’t afford to lose any more hunting ground. As access to private land has diminished, sportsmen have come to depend on public land and this is likely to continue.

Both game and nongame animals belong to the people and are appreciated by all of us. But hunting and trapping are the principle methods of controlling populations of game animals and limiting the impact of problems like Lyme disease and crop damage.

Access to private land is a privilege in Maine, not a right, and landowners have many problems that are caused by recreationists and others, from illegal waste dumping to environmental damage from motor vehicles.

Although walk-in access to great ponds is guaranteed, Mainers have no rights of access to moving water. And a large number of great ponds have no public access site or site for launching watercraft.

Most recreationists need motorized access in order to enjoy the lands and waters of our state. The majority are unable to recreate in areas they cannot reach by motor vehicle.

Most recreationists appreciate areas where motorized access is not allowed, including many hunters who enjoy walk-in hunting and anglers who enjoy remote trout ponds.

ATV and snowmobile riders need through trails all over the state and some side trails to special places.

Most recreationists enjoy “quiet” waters without motors or with limited horsepower motors.

Solutions

All recreationists should understand where our disagreements are real and establish methods to mitigate and resolve those disagreements.

Hunters should support the creation of nonmotorized areas on both public and private lands.

Nonhunters should participate in and support landowner relation programs.

All groups should work to secure legal access to all Maine waters, including moving waters – with a mix of boat and hand-carry launches that match the size and uses of the water.

Match horsepower and launching facilities to the size of the water, and designate some waters – including some sections of rivers – for nonmotorized use.

All groups should be active in habitat protection and enhancement programs and issues.

All recreationists should oppose private leasing of lands for recreation.

Nonhunters should consider the concept of hiking seasons and hunting seasons, to allow all recreationists some opportunity to use public lands, instead of pursuing bans on hunting that prevent hunters from ever enjoying particular sections of public land while hikers enjoy year-round access and use.

Establish strong and comprehensive landowner relations programs at state agencies and all groups that represent outdoor recreationists.

Prohibit citizen initiatives on wildlife management issues.

Allow some motorized access to ecoreserves (including ATV and snowmobile trails) and allow all recreational uses on those reserves, as long as those uses do not negatively impact the resources identified as the reasons to create the ecoreserve.

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SAM’s Landowner Thank You Program

SAM encourages all sportsmen to ask for permission to hunt on private land, and to thank landowners after you have hunted their land. And we make it easy for you to do that!

SAM’s thank you cards feature seasonal scenes from Maine and are blank on the inside so that you may write your own special thank-you to the landowner.

The cards are available in the SAM Store on this website, or by contacting the SAM office in Augusta. We’ll send you the cards and matching envelopes so you can address and mail them and add a written personal message.

Please thank your landowners today. Our hunting future depends on it!

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