North Dakota BHA 2023 Legislative Roundup

First and foremost, the reason for this blog is a sincere – and huge - THANK YOU!!! It’s been a long, arduous legislative session and we are overall happy with the way things have shaken out. Thanks to all our members and especially those who took the time to submit testimony, call, or email your representatives. The unified effort no doubt had a big impact on the outcome of many of these bills. Official bill language is linked after each summary. Here is an overview and rundown of the legislation we took a stance on this session:

HB 1175: This bill would guarantee hunting and fishing access to all North Dakota Trust Lands, (ie no posting of trust lands). The chapter initially came out in full support of this bill. It was then converted to a study, which would have in turn would have tied the hands of the department for two years. Thus, the chapter position changed to opposed on this bill with hopes of keeping the wheels turning with the ND Trust Lands Department moving forward to find a hunter friendly solution outside of the legislative session. The bill received a 5-0 do not pass recommendation out of committee and failed upon floor vote. Further meetings with the Land Trust Department are tentatively scheduled to address this issue.

Link to HB 1175

HB 1260: This bill was created to address elk distribution and depredation issues though a cooperative plan involving hunters and landowners. The chapter supported the passage of this bill, as we believe that the ND Game & Fish needs tools to address local, problematic elk concentrations, and that it is our responsibility as hunters to ensure that landowners dealing with problems caused by a public wildlife resource have the tools to deal with them as well. This bill requires that reasonable access (no fees) must be allowed to receive assistance. This bill works to both encourage landowner tolerance of public wildlife and provides equitable opportunities for hunters, a win for all parties. We are happy to say this bill is now law!

Link to HB 1260

HB 1151: This bill would have removed the management authority of the North Dakota Game & Fish Department as it relates to controlling the spread of CWD and other diseases. Likely the most contentious of the lot, the bill passed the house but was fortunately killed in the senate. The chapter opposed this bill mainly upon the premise that it would have stripped the ND Game & Fish Department of their authority to implement their game management plans. We believe that taking the state’s wildlife regulatory decisions and placing them in the hands of the legislature is unwise and would have set a dangerous precedent for the future of the public’s resources.

Link to HB 1151

SB 2368: This bill would have initiated a study with the intent to create and appoint an oversight committee over the North Dakota Game & Fish department. The chapter opposed this bill, believing that it was simply a solution looking for a problem. The bill was born essentially as a way for politicians to exercise direct control over the game and fish department. We strongly believe that legislative influence would only end up restricting or harming equitable and science-driven hunting and fishing opportunities, as we have seen in other states. We believe that qualified professionals with years of experience should be making decisions on North Dakota’s public wildlife management, not legislators. 2368 was defeated on the senate floor.

Link to SB 2368

Again, we cannot thank everyone enough for getting involved. It’s in no small way because of you that North Dakota’s great outdoor heritage lives on. The legislative session is the most exhausting, least fun, but probably most consequential of the chapter’s spent time. Check our social media pages here at Facebook and Instagram for more info on these bills, where you can see which legislators voted for/against each one. Don’t hesitate to send them a thank you email; the kind words go farther than you think.

Also, if you would like to speak with us about our stances or any public land / outdoor issues in general, please send us an email.

Join our mailing list to stay tuned for work volunteer projects on the horizon, as well as other events we are currently planning.

If you’re looking to support our chapter’s work, we encourage you to join or renew your Backcountry Hunters & Anglers membership!

All the best, and thanks again for your ongoing support and engagement,

ND BHA Board of Directors 

About North Dakota BHA Chapter