I am a non-resident freelancer. I have enjoyed North Dakota hunting since 1975. I will be contributing a few hunting articles to this site if the management continues to accept them.
I am trying to make a positive contribution to this discussion. I think I know what the residents are complaining about. I spent one day after Thanksgiving in the Mott area looking for a place to hunt pheasants. I was appalled by the extent of posting which had virtually 100% of the land locked up. We were the only damned fools we saw all day trying to find just one field to hunt in. If, the waterfowl hunting situation in the prime areas becomes the same thing, North Dakota will be absolutely ruined.
I am also a "regulator" by profession, but not a lawyer. I have a lot of experience trying to control various types of land uses so that the use of the land provides for the general public welfare. It seems to me we ought to be able to come up with some way to limit the extent of guiding and leasing operations. Although, it certainly is easier to develop regulations to limit non-residents than it is to limit guiding operations. My philosophy is that if the guides are the bad guys, let's control them not the non-residents. Controlling the guides should somewhat reduce the total number of non-residents entering the state to hunt. The big payoff will be that it will open up access to locals. They may not care how many non-residents are in the area if they can get access to hunt.
The public purpose behind the proposed regulation of guides is to allow all hunters access to hunt while still allowing for economic development opportunities for local farmers and outfitters.
It has been said that an effort to limit the number of acres a guide could lease is easily circumvented when the guide puts the lease in another family member's name. I think that could be addressed by fine-tuning the regulations. Legislators and the lobbyists are great at doing this. For example, the restricting language might read something to the effect that , "Any guide, outfitter, individual, including members of his/her family related by blood, marriage, or adoption and any employee, or other person related contractually in any way to said guide or individual shall not lease more than XXX acres of property in any township in the State of North Dakota for the purposes of providing exclusive access for hunting for others who would pay for such privilege."
There are probably some things with this language that are unclear, but I am confident that it could be revised to remove any serious loopholes.
Here is another alternative. It is a derivation of the first alternative.
Put a limit on the number of acres that can be leased for hunting purposes in each township - for example, 1280 acres per township. That's the equivalent of two sections or 1/18 (5.6%) of the township. For ease of calculation, any part of a farmer's property that is leased shall render all of his contiguous holdings leased. If the farmer happens to have more than the 1280 contiguous acres under this provision, the guide and farmer shall not be in violation of the 1280 acre limit and the property may be leased for hunting purposes.
Yes, I realize that only 6% of the township landowners will be allowed to benefit from pay hunting. You can fiddle with that percentage if you want to. But, in the end, the guy who gets his land "registered" first is the one who benefits. This could be addressed by allowing any one landowner to lease his land for hunting only one out of every five years. Then, the guides would have to rotate their operations just as the farmer rotates his crops. Some land has to be fallow every few years.
In both of these alternatives, the guide receiving the lease rights would have to register with the County. The county auditor would be responsible for keeping track of the number of acres leased in each township in the county. The local sportsman's clubs would be asked to help with the enforcement. Increase, hunting license fees $10 to help pay for the enforcement.
These are just two ideas that put the onus on the guide and farmer, not the non-resident hunter. It allows the resident to compete at a decided advantage over the non-resident. The resident can always get out there early and get permission to hunt. Getting permission does not constitute leasing unless money changes hands. The non-resident will be able to hunt what's left. I think that I can live with that.
Are these proposed solutions complicated? I would say so. But, this is a complicated problem that will not be solved by simple, knee-jerk solutions. We are all going to have to work real hard on this one.
Have at it!