The trespass law in Minnesota is applicable to all forms of outdoor recreation, including but not limited to hunting, boating, fishing, trapping, hiking, and camping. Understanding and adhering to these laws are crucial for all individuals engaging in outdoor activities.
- Permission Requirement: Individuals must not enter legally posted land or agricultural land without explicit permission from the landowner, lessee, or authorized manager.
Posting Requirements for Landowners:
- Frequency: Land needs to be posted only once a year.
- Placement: Signs should be placed at intervals of 1,000 feet along the property boundary, reduced to 500 feet in wooded areas. Additionally, signs should be at primary corners and access points of each parcel.
- Sign Specifications: The signs must clearly state "No Trespassing" or similar words in letters at least 2 inches high and include the signature or the name and telephone number of the landowner, lessee, or manager.
Penalties for Violation
- Civil and Criminal Penalties: Violators of trespass laws may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties, with fines up to $3,000 and possible license revocation.
- Enforcement: Conservation officers and peace officers are responsible for enforcing trespass laws.
Advice for Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Seek Permission: If there is any doubt about the legality of entering a particular piece of land, the best course of action is to seek permission from the landowner or authorized manager.
Restrictions Under Trespass Law
Entry and Permission
- Posted Land: Entering legally posted land for any outdoor recreation requires explicit permission.
- Agricultural Land: Similar to posted land, agricultural land cannot be entered for recreation without permission.
- After Notice to Leave: If told to leave private land by the owner, occupant, or lessee, a person may not return for outdoor recreation within one year.
Firearm Discharge Restrictions
- Near Buildings: Discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building occupied by humans or livestock requires written permission from the owner, occupant, or lessee, except for individuals hunting on their own property.
- Near Livestock Corrals: Discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a corral confining livestock (1 acre or less) for normal operations is prohibited without permission. This restriction does not apply to hunting on state or local government-owned land (not road right-of-way) during an established season.
Hunting and Wildlife Interaction
- Hunting from Water or Public Land: Hunting is permissible from the water, private shooting preserves, or public land within 500 feet of a building occupied by humans or livestock.
- Taking Wild Animals: Taking any wild animal is prohibited on any land where entry is lawfully prohibited by trespass law, including intentional use of dogs for hunting on posted or agricultural land without permission.
- Domestic Animals and Property: It's unlawful to wound or kill domestic animals, destroy private property, or improperly use gates on private property without rectifying it to its original state.
Exceptions to Trespass Law
Retrieval of Wounded Wild Animals
- On Foot Entry: A person may enter land that is not posted on foot without permission to retrieve a wounded wild animal that they have lawfully shot. This is only applicable until the person is asked to leave by the landowner or representative.
Retrieval of Hunting Dogs
- Without Firearm: A person on foot may enter private land without a firearm and without permission to retrieve a hunting dog. After retrieving the dog, they must immediately leave the premises. This exception does not permit the taking of any wild animal during the retrieval.
Walk-In Access Lands
- Posted Signs: Individuals may enter lands that are specifically posted with “Walk-In Access” signs for outdoor recreation, including hunting, without obtaining direct permission. These lands are part of programs intended to increase public access to private lands for wildlife-dependent recreation.
Agricultural Land and Trespass Laws
Permission Requirement on Agricultural Land
Even if agricultural land is not explicitly posted, permission is required for entering:
- Respect for Private Lands: Hunters and trappers must always obtain permission before entering lands not openly posted as available for hunting and trapping.
- Authority for Permission: Only the owner, occupant, or lessee of the land can provide the necessary authorization for entry or removal of trespass prevention signs.
Definition of Agricultural Land
Agricultural land encompasses a variety of land types used for agricultural purposes:
- Plowed or Tilled Land: Areas where the soil has been broken up for cultivation.
- Standing Crops or Crop Residues: Fields with growing crops or leftovers from harvested crops.
- Enclosed Domestic Livestock Area: Land within a maintained fence for domestic livestock, including horses.
- Grassland or Hay Land: Areas planted to native or introduced grassland or used for hay production.
- Short-Rotation Woody Crops: Areas planted with fast-growing woody plants like hybrid poplar, harvested within 15 years for fiber.
Posting Not Required on Certain Agricultural Lands
Some agricultural lands do not need to be posted to be considered off-limits:
- Grassland and Hay Land: All areas used for growing grass or hay.
- Woody Plants for Fiber: Areas with hybrid poplar or similar plants harvested within 15 years of planting.
- Riparian Buffers and Conservation Lands: Areas required by law or enrolled in specific conservation programs like CREP or RIM.
Posting and Enforcement
- Brush or Trees: Land primarily covered in brush or trees should be posted to clarify its status.
- Ambiguous Agricultural Status: When it's unclear if land is used for agriculture, trespassers should be verbally notified before any legal enforcement occurs.
Water Access and Recreational Use
Lawful Access to Water
Accessing streams, lakes, or any water bodies for recreational purposes is considered lawful under the following conditions:
- Public Access: There is a designated public access point to the water.
- Abutting Public Land or Road: The water surface is adjacent to public land or a public road right-of-way.
- Private Permission: You have received explicit permission from a private landowner to cross their land to reach the water.
Recreational Use Definition
Recreational use encompasses a wide range of activities conducted on water bodies:
- Activities: Includes boating, swimming, fishing, hunting, trapping, and similar activities.
- Walking in Water: Walking in the water as part of these activities is included in recreational use, irrespective of land ownership beneath the water.
Open Waters for Recreational Use
The extent of recreational use of a stream or lake is determined by its usability and lawful accessibility:
- Entire Surface Use: If the water body is capable of recreational use and is lawfully accessible, its entire surface is open for recreation.
- Capability of Recreational Use: Typically, any water body that can float a canoe is deemed capable of recreational use, but other water bodies might also qualify based on specific circumstances.
Landowner Liability in Recreational Use
Limitation of Liability for Landowners
When landowners provide permission for their land to be used for recreational activities without charging a fee, they have certain legal protections:
- No Assurance of Safety: Granting permission does not imply that the landowner has assured the safety of the land for recreational or any other purposes.
- No Change in Legal Status: The individual using the land does not gain the legal status of an invitee or licensee, to whom a higher duty of care is typically owed.
- No Responsibility for Injuries: The landowner generally does not assume responsibility or incur liability for injuries to the person or property caused by the action or omission of the person using the land for recreational purposes.
Implications for Recreational Users
Individuals engaging in recreational activities on private land with the owner's permission should be aware that:
- Self-Responsibility: They are responsible for their own safety and should take appropriate precautions while engaging in recreational activities.
- Respect for Property: Even though landowners are not liable for the user's safety, users should respect the property and any rules set by the landowner.
Road Right-of-Way and Landowner Authority
Road right-of-ways may not always be owned by a governmental unit; instead, they might be under an easement granted to the government by the landowner for vehicular and foot travel. Despite this easement, the landowner often retains certain rights and can restrict access, especially for activities like hunting or trapping.
- Restriction on Access: Landowners can restrict access for hunting or trapping within the road right-of-way by posting signs or verbally directing individuals to leave.
- Seeking Permission: To avoid trespassing, individuals should seek explicit permission if there's any uncertainty regarding the ownership or the landowner's restrictions on the right-of-way.
Understanding Road Right-of-Way Ownership
Different types of roads may have varying ownership or easement arrangements:
- Interstate Highways: Hunting is prohibited on Interstate Highway right-of-ways.
- State Highways: These are often state-owned but may include a mixture of easements and outright ownership.
- County Roads: Ownership may lie with the county or exist as easements. Paved roads are more likely to be county-owned, while gravel roads might be on easement land.
- Township Roads: Generally, these are under easement and not owned by the township, although there are exceptions.
Visual Indicators and Variability
The ownership status of a road right-of-way can often be indicated by the road surface and the maintenance of the area surrounding the road, such as ditches and fences. However, this is not an absolute method for determining ownership or easement status, and it can vary significantly from one place to another. The maintained portion's width can also vary based on ownership or easement type.