Why Some Minnesota Farmers May Not Let You Hunt Their Land

It all started as a great idea proposed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton as an effort to improve water quality.  I’m talking about the Minnesota Buffer Law which establishes new requirements for perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along lakes, rivers, and streams and buffers of 16.5 feet along ditches.  And while I am somewhat torn by the real value of this new land use requirement, as I have previously written…I see both sides of the issue as a landowner and as a sportsman.

Now, when Governor Dayton announced his new legacy project to a bunch of sportsmen at the 2015 DNR Roundtable meetings there was lots of excitement from the conservation community.  On the other hand, many landowners felt the proposal (and subsequent law) went too far in dictating how a landowner must use their land.

Well, at this point I’m not going to debate the issue.   Rather, I’m just here to say there are lots of farmers and landowners who are fed up with the bureaucracy involved and it only seems to be getting worse.

Indeed, a farmer who doesn’t have the required 50-foot vegetative buffer can suffer some consequences if they are out of compliance after November 1st.  In most cases these will be fines levied against the non-complaint landowner.   In some instances, however, a farmer could be facing criminal prosecution.  That’s right, criminal prosecution as is the case in Traverse County, Minnesota and likely other counties.

Now, you can imagine that doesn’t sit well with many in the agriculture community.  Of course, if you are a landowner with no rivers or public ditches, then the issue doesn’t really matter to that particular farmer.  On the other hand, many other farmers feel the government telling them how to conduct their livelihood on land they own or operate is an invasion on their rights.

Then comes along the sportsman who this fall might want to scare up a pheasant or two.  Quite honestly, I think many farmers look at the sportsman as being the rallying point for this new conservation mandate.  After all, the vast majority of sportsmen are not landowners and really have little to lose, and perhaps some to gain with more hunting opportunities thanks to buffers.

So, this fall some sportsmen may now be seeing this sign posted on the perimeter of potential hunting grounds:

What do you think, sportsmen?  It’s hard enough to get permission to traipse on private property doing our hunting thing.  Is an agitated gatekeeper to such lands the best way to do this?  How has this issue become a mutually beneficial relationship for both sportsmen and landowners?

I want to hear your thoughts.  Okay, I get all the arguments for improving the environment, etc.  But really sportsmen…is a proposal you were cheering almost three years ago going to pay recreational dividends when one of the parties of this relationship feels lots of angst because of the buffer measure?  When the gatekeeper isn’t happy this is not a good thing, in my honest opinion.

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