Maine doesn’t need an automatic posting law

9 mins read
Wild mushrooms
Sam Hill
Sam Hill

This week, instead of documenting a recent adventure I embarked on, I’d like to take the liberty of someone in my position to raise awareness on a proposed bill in the state Legislature that, if passed, will change Maine forever as well as our rights as a recreational citizen.

The bill, Sec. 1.17 MRSA §2513, states the following, “A person may not take, remove or possess a natural resource from the property of another without written permission from the owner of the property. For purposes of this section, “natural resource” means any element, material, object, plant, mineral or organism that exists naturally and is not made, fabricated or created by a human being and includes any natural element, material, object, plant, mineral or organism that has been grown, bred, nurtured, collected, sown or manipulated by a human being.”

At first, people might not see the extremity of the bill and the way it is worded. Before I go on, just so everybody gets a grasp of what is going on, I’d like to share a list I put together of things that we will no longer be able to do in the Maine on unposted land without an exhausting list of signatures from landowners who would probably prefer not to be bothered, having already chosen not to post their land in the first place:

Seeking out antler shedings with a dog
Gathering wildflowers
Mushroom picking
Foraging for herbs
Hunting for funky dry hay and fallen tree limbs for home décor
Collecting cool stones
Making leaf scrap books
Finding bugs and butterflies for an insect collection
Harvesting fiddleheads
Using dead tree limbs/parts for firewood

Of course, probably the most upset this will cause within our local communities is its affect on hunting. By specifying “organisms” in the bill, it seems a hunter will no longer be able to gear up with buddies and head off to a remote section of hardwoods and harvest a few rabbits or a deer without becoming a target for wardens and state police. All of the untouched, seemingly forgotten woods of Maine will instantly become off limits until all private landowners are identified, contacted, and hassled for their permission on a slip of paper. Seeking unposted land will no longer be enough for the law-abiding hunter; the local sportsman will have to do pre-season office work, collecting and consolidating the dozens of documents he will have to have in his possession in order to avoid becoming a criminal in the upcoming season. Does this sound like Maine?

Personally, I’d rather not be obligated to pull the burdock off my coat and scrape the mud from my boots before hopping back into my truck after exploring some new land. Heater-hunting, enjoyed by many and the only option for some, would never be the same. The only advantage of hunting from a vehicle is the amount of ground you can cover, theoretically, requiring a hand-written permit for each parcel of land you cross if you plan on taking an animal when you happen across it.

Harvested Fiddleheads
Harvested Fiddleheads

However, it’s not just about the hunting; this bill directly affects the wonderfully diverse recreational side of Maine. You can’t bring the children to a place outside of town and go on scavenger hunts through the woods; and your dog can’t bring his favorite stick back home from a hike the two of you just went on. Do you enjoy picking wildflowers? Sorry! Dozens of outdoor activities will be affected by this bill, activities that used to be innocent here in Maine, activities that used to add to our colorful heritage.

I got a pretty big kick out of George Smith’s recent article in the Morning Sentinel, “Private landowners getting robbed by commercial harvesters” where he goes on about criminals who rob landowners of their mushrooms and fiddleheads, sometimes on a commercial scale. I found it particularly odd that an entire article is written about these “felons,” yet not one instance of it actually happening in Maine was even mentioned. I don’t doubt that it has actually happened in the past, and I certainly do not agree with, nor condone, any commercial fiddleheaders or mushroomers that might harvest without the landowner’s permission, but in any reported occasion I would seriously question the efforts of the landowners and their ability to properly manage/regulate their own property.

One thing can be said about Maine: it is made up of compassionate and capable people. In most cases, we’d like to allow others onto our land in order to enjoy it like we do, but we have to at least act like responsible landowners, which includes marking our own property with any guidelines we want followed if we sense we are being taken advantage of. There may be times when we are forced to take our own individual action when something is taking place on the property that we don’t agree with, whether it’s dumping trash, poaching animals, or picking some ferns. If you do have a problem, then hey, post your land, right? If the signs aren’t heeded, then action can be taken in court. It’s hard for me to believe that we are all a helpless, lazy bunch that would rather have all of Maine’s private land restricted from public use just so we don’t have to visit the land we own and put a few disclaimers up.

On a final note, I’d like to clear up any landowner-liability rumors concerning recreationalists getting injured on your property. Whether the land is posted or not, whether or not you give the people permission to be on your property, you can not be sued if an injury takes place (with one exception): says that only a “’malicious’ failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition” can provide the grounds of a lawsuit against the landowner. This isn’t referring to a slippery slope or steep climb, this condition is “usually man-made” and presents a situation where the landowner “[knows] that people are likely to get hurt.” So breathe easy, landowners, we have an extremely strict liability law here in Maine, and since it has taken effect, not one landowner has been held responsible for an injury!

The important thing is, as Mainers, we have the option of restricting our land and natural resources from others; we don’t require a law that makes the decision for us and automatically forbids others from our land until all the appropriate papers are signed. Usually I don’t root for signs that announce limited or no access, but it sure does beat having this bill get passed and watching all of Maine’s private land become off-limits to the activities we have come to love and enjoy.

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  1. i asked state reps to propose an amendment to the Maine constitution to give the people of Maine the right to hunt, fish, and trap.

    it fell on def ears, and now i can sit back say i told you so once again.

  2. So I won’t be able to swat black flies if I’m on private land without written permission? I’m not going to like that much !!

  3. I,for one, am tired of people coming onto my property uninvited and cutting balsam branches, harvesting fiddle-heads, shooting rabbits, and leaving their garbage and bags of dead deer carcasses for me to clean up.
    I know you who have lived here for generations take it for granted that you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want -and thank God most of you are responsible enough to leave it like you found it – but there are a lot of people who come and abuse my hospitality without ever having the common decency and courtesy to ask for permission to take things off of the land that I am caring for. I allow hunting and snowmobiling and try to be a good neighbor. When folks ask permission I’ve always given it (for hunting, fishing, etc.) Its the people who just come and be greedy and leave their trash, or make a profit off my land that are not welcome. I chose not to post my land so I can be on good terms with my neighbors…but it’s not my neighbors that are the problem.
    And because there are people like this (the greedy ones), then laws like this get written.
    I’m sorry for the decent folks…but come and ask and we can work together.

  4. If we made laws against everything we are “tired of,” I shudder to imagine what those laws might be.

  5. Well said. All it takes are a few rotten apples to tear thinks up and it then ruins it for everyone else. I think rather it is a law or not that it would courteous for one to ask permission. It is kind of scary during hunting season walking on your own property hoping the irresponsible type hunters do not shoot you. We had a hunter years ago shoot between our house and our garage. I enjoy 4-wheeling but the trails seem limited because landowners are closing off there property due to damage by irresponsible people.

  6. Is there an online site that enables us to write to our legislators so that we can ask that they vote against this bill? This bill that would take away much of the charm that makes our home appealing to us,and to those from away. In any case, I think the bill, if it passes, would be absurdly difficult to enforce.

  7. T….I agree. Except I am going to post. Signs are all made. Have had no time to put them up. Everything changed when some bums stole our 2 bottom plows off my wood lot last year..

  8. Rep. Russell Black of Wilton sponsored L.D. 421 “An Act To Prohibit the Unauthorized Harvesting of Wild Mushrooms and Fiddleheads,” Did that bill morph into this one? If so, all calls should be directed to Rep. Black. The posting law in this State has worked fine for decades. This bill is a sign of the approaching end of the way life should be.

  9. I am against this bill. If you want to keep people off your land then post it. I know a few land owner that won’t sign permission slips but are fine with the use of their land. The way the laws are seem to work fine.

    Ned, idea for ya. Offer someone permission to hunt on your land in exchange for putting up your signs.

    PS if this bill passes I will be making my own signs “If you don’t plan on hunting, fishing, or trapping then stay off.”

  10. People have to think beyond the short term results of the bills and laws that they want passed. In this case if this bill is considered and ultimately passed it could mean the loss of millions of tourist dollars from the influx of hunters. Many small businesses rely on this extra income to make it through the year. Why would I spend the $100+ dollars for a non-resident hunting license plus all the money I spend buying supplies and provisions for our hunting camp if I can’t take my annual walk in the woods with a gun and participate in this age old tradition? I go up to my camp several times a year to enjoy the outdoors and the great fishing and hunting in Maine. I do not post my land. I feel all that use it should treat it with respect and leave it the way they found it. Just like I do when I use others property.
    This is why I am concerned about another bill that was introduced that would close all fishing within 250′ of shorelines, docks, mooring and swim platforms. (HP0509, LD 758, item 1, An Act To Protect Boats, Moorings and Docks in the Inland Waters.) This would ultimately put an end to all tournament fishing in the state of Maine. Again this will mean the loss of millions more dollars in the tourist industry. Before long all outdoor activities are going to be illegal and the great outdoors in Maine will be dead.

  11. I agree the proposed law would be cumbersome, however I think we have the laws backwards in Maine. It should be a given that you do not trespass on someone’s PRIVATE property without permission or it being posted allowing one to do so. Why should I have to put up ugly orange signs every 50 ft or whatever it is to make it known I don’t want someone coming on my land to hunt or harvest mushrooms? Maybe I planned to harvest those mushrooms?

    I thought the only time I had to have this concern was hunting season, but it sounds like if I don’t bother to post my land, it is perfectly fine for someone to walk onto my property and pick the apples from the trees or cut wood, maybe even raid my garden.

  12. Always Learning, even though I have different opinions about the intent of this bill, I wanted to give you the link to find all legislator emails:

    It looks like the bill number is LD 749:An Act To Prohibit the Taking or Possession of a Natural Resource That Is on the Land of Another

    You will want to refer to this in you email. It looks like it just went to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. I would actually suggest writing to the committee members before your local legislators. It could change drastically or possibly die in committee, so this is who you should write to to express your views. You can find the link to committee members from the committee page.

  13. I shouldn’t have to add myself to the do not call registry to have my phone left alone.
    I shouldn’t have to send a letter – physically in writing – to CMP to tell them to leave our trees alone (over and over)
    and I damn sure shouldn’t have to pay for and spend time putting up signs to tell you to stay the hell off of our land.

    Pass this bill as soon as possible, please.

  14. A few people ruin it for everyone. Though I may not entirely agree with this bill, it may be necessary. It’s pretty annoying to see someone picking fiddleheads on my property, then turning around and selling them. I own 12 acres on th Sandy River and last year I only harvested 2 quarts of fiddleheads because they were picked clean. If you want to eat fiddleheads, I have no problem sharing with you, but don’t take food out of my mouth to put money on your pocket!

  15. Fiddleheads are stolen and sold commercially all season long around here!! Happens right here in Strong on the back side of the river . People sneak in by canoe and the heads are sold at Wells in Wilton. These landowners shoot and ask questions later. There’s your sign!

  16. I wonder how much land these “complainers”actually own as a percentage of “useable” land for hunters and gatherers,1% 2% .5%? Although, the MDofIF&W (dept. Of inland fisheries and wildlife) will appreciate the loss of revenue from the lack of license and permit fees because they cant get to their hunting and fishing hot spots. Thanks for this bill!

  17. T… Post your property if you have an issue with people on it. The state of Maine does not need a law like the one being proposed.

  18. I agree with this bill! People shouldn’t be able to just walk onto any property without permission. It boils down to people wanting something for nothing. What is there to stop people from cutting the spring tulips off my yard because they like them, or firewood from my land. What is the difference between firewood and fiddleheads? There is no difference!
    Should I be entitled to enter any vehicle parked at Wal-mart or, take a pen from a store because I need one and they have a lot of them? As someone who owns a large quantity of land, I want to protect my investment. It’s going to be non-land owners who complain about this. I think it’s time to stop the leniency. What are these trespassers doing in return for the landowners? Nothing! Essentially, these people want to be allowed to steal. They want to take something they don’t have permission to take and give nothing in return. And, just because it hasn’t been legally stopped before, doesn’t make it right. My land is posted and that has not stopped people from hiking and hunting on it.

  19. Tulips, gardens, stealing pens, fishing tourneys, failing to wear orange in Nov, and disrespect. Let’s focus. If signs aren’t a deterrent how will documents in Augusta work any better. I’m embarrassed when I hear of bottom plows, granite foundations,diesel fuel, batteries, etc getting stolen as a life long local outdoor enthusiast. Write a dozen laws to address the problem and I bet it will still exist. How do we correct lack of respect and courtesy in people? Trespassing is the authorities and hold them accountable to do their jobs. Don’t penalize most peolpe who respect others and enjoy an outdoor way of life. Our legislators should be focusing on issues that could repair our deteriorating gov and our crippled economy , stop crawling around in the mud and accomplish something credible. Measures are already in place to address illegal trespassing. If the bill passes I sure hope it will include pussywillows, daisies, and wording to make foolishness a crime. Nothing friendlier or more neighborly than a KEEP OUT sign, that will make the thieves and hoodlums stay away. (Yeah, Right)

  20. @Susan, that is a good point you raise. I don’t know how much this would impact IFW revenue, but as a non-hunter, I am aware that hunting/fishing-related revenue benefits all of us, not just hunters. That goes for wildlife observers and photographers, every call made to a biologist because someone sees unwanted wildlife (gasp) in their backyard in Biddeford, etc. IFW doesn’t take from the general fund the way many (most?) other state agencies do.

    Honestly, I haven’t formed an opinion on this yet. I’ll admit I wasn’t even aware of it until reading this (thank you, Sam). We do own some (small by Maine standards) acreage but it’s in a subdivision and so we don’t get quite the same impact. At the moment, it is open, though we do have some safety zone signs posted closer to the house as we have kids.

  21. Wow, do you hear yourselves? What happened to respect, consideration, compassion, and loving your neighbor? Have we so lost sight of common decency that we have to post signs and have all these laws to live in peace with each other? What a sad day for Maine and what a shame. How did those that came before us ever survive? I have more respect for them now than ever. There certainly weren’t as many crybabies as there are now. The “big boy” and “big girl” panties must have been worn much more than they are today. Just sayin’….

  22. preettty sure this bill is not about your driveway, your firewood, or your pansies in your yard, it’s about the thousands of acres of rural, undeveloped land that supports dozens of maine’s recreational activities. not to mention HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH IN TOURISM each year.
    “what it boils down to” -realistically- is that it would be ludicrous to pass this wide encompassing bill just because a few (incompetent?) landowners can’t deal with canoers lifting some fiddelheads each year! you got trespassers? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT like mainers have done successfully for generations. if people are so worked up about their fiddelheads, why not ask for a stricter penalty and more enforcement on commercial fiddelheading without the proper credentials? or maybe we should just privatize all of maine instead…that seems waaaay easier…….

  23. All landowners deserve the courtesy of someone asking permission to be on land they’ve worked hard to acquire. It should not be the responsibility of landowners to post their land.You know you don’t own it so stay off it unless you’ve had the strength to get permission. People against this are generally the ones whose chose to hunt and fish while others worked their butts off to acquire property.

  24. so if this law passes how do we know who’s property we are on is everyone going to have to put signs around their property with address and phone numbers. I think the current law works. If you don’t want people on your property than post it. stealing is stealing don’t confuse that with hunting and fishing. If you post your land than stay on your land should be the law.

  25. I do understand people being upset when people destroy or leave trash around. But when do we as humans own wild animals and plants that have been here long before I was. If we as people own the land that these wild plants and animals grow on they’re are not wild they are pets and a garden

  26. No one owns the wild animals. They come and go as they please. As for the plants, they are the property of the land owner. When you purchase a piece of property and pay taxes on it every year, you should have the right to harvest what grows on it as you see fit. The biggest problem landowners face today is ignorance. I have seen areas of fiddleheads wiped out because they sneak in and take every one of them. If this new law will protect my land from the ignorant abuse by others, I’m all for it! And if your not man enough to ask permission to use what I pay to own, please stay home.

  27. Caution….Caution….. This is one more law against the “outdoorsman”. Some people who move here and buy land don’t have the same history and outlook as we native people. If they want this state to like the one they came from then they should go back where they came from. Think about this bill and the wide spread effects of it!

  28. More new laws will not prevent the people that you target form stealing your stuff and leaving trash on your land. This issue is much like trying to put up a keep out sign to keep people from breaking into your house….It will only keep the honest people out. Pretty stupid. We need to have wardens – Police enforce the laws that are on the books already passing more that won’t be enforced will do no good. They need to put more time into investigating crimes against land owners. It really galls me that many of the land owners here take advantage of the tree growth tax and have no problem with the rest of us helping them pay the taxes on their large tracks of land but god forbid that someone should use any of it for recreation.If you don’t want people picking fiddle heads, mushrooms, let them know. I bet most will respect your wishes.

  29. If I am on a stretch of land where there are nothing but camps (No one there in the summer) what is the problem? Why let natural foods like mushrooms and fiddle heads go to waste. And if I get the owners written permission, will I also need a land survey from him, to ensure I am within property lines? We don’t need stupid laws for one or two bad apples.

  30. Maine is unique in the liberal trespass laws, it is special and shows our respect for each other. I have had things stolen from my land, but resist the urge to post because I hate the signs, believe most people are respectful and I use other peoples land. It irks me when people post yet use other people private land.

    In fact, it is one of my greatest pleaseure to hunt, hike, gather and explore. I do so with respect. Other than a seasonal sign to keep out the commercial fiddleheaders (I and my friends gather sustainably), you won’t see a sign. The tighter the population gets, the more issues you will see and more people will post. Eventually, we will all need to pay to use land (hunt clubs, access fees). I’ll fight it all the way, and don’t agree with this proposed law.

    When all the private land is posted, where does the next generation recreate? On their computer?

  31. First, why should anyone be allowed to create a bill for anything without first running it by the people for a vote. It is after all our freedoms and our country, is it not?
    Then if it’s deemed worthry of consideration the vote will reflect that.

  32. Maine has plenty of public land that my taxes help pay for. Every year voters lock up more private land by purchasing at inflated prices with tax revenue. The mentality is “hey, it’s not my money, it’s the government’s’! If you choose to recreate and aren’t a landowner for whatever reason and you don’t feel you should have to get permission to trespass then use public land that you unknowingly help pay for. And no worries about needing a survey, your tax dollars insure that boundaries are well marked.

  33. Portions of our property are posted. Anyone who knows us knows they have permission to use it at any time, but anyone who doesn’t know us simply sees a sign requiring permission. All they have to do is ask! No one has ever had a problem with this, and it keeps our children and livestock safe during hunting season- anyone using our property is aware of the pastures and yards, and treats them respectfully. Neighbors will not be offended by posted signs if you speak to them about it. Strangers who have hunted your land in the past will see your signs and then introduce themselves to get your permission, so they’re no longer strangers.
    Or you can choose to not post and just live with the folks who use the land and the way they do it, without complaining, as so many people do. But not posting and then being angry is just your own fault!

  34. I love seeing this bill .. It’s about time people take responsibility for just helping themselves to whatever they think is cool or should be free. Helping yourself to a Christmas tree, wild strawberries, flat rocks, or mushrooms on someone’s property before they get around to picking them for their own use is stealing. The freeloaders aren’t paying the taxes that are continually increasing on the property so why do they think it’s fair game; first come first serve ?? GET PERMISSION. Is that so hard to do ? SMH

  35. Amazing!!! All these years I thought there were laws against taking someonelse’s property and going on someone else’s land uninvited, especially when it is posted.

    Incidentally, the bill regarding no fishing near docks etc. is “By Request” which used to mean that this was requested by a constituient.

  36. ^^sitting in your sofa chair and waiting for people to come ask you to use your property does sound pretty easy doesn’t it? now, what about the outdoorsmen (that keep this state alive with tourism) that are forced to contact dozens if not hundreds of people (how are they supposed to contact them if there aren’t signs everywhere with contact information??) before they go hunting each year? it’s sad to see there are people selfish enough in Maine that they would rather see a VAST amount of land become inaccessible simply because they have a problem putting a few signs up on their own little piece of property, in the unlikely event they are being taken advantage of.

    the few criminals out there that are doing the “taking advantage-of” will not care one bit if there is a new piece of legislature that tells them in different words that what they are doing is wrong. they realize what they are doing is wrong.

    and just because you are out in the Maine woods, enjoying the land, does not make you a “free-loader.” I feel bad for you just hearing you say that….

    oh, and well said, John.

  37. Rep Black, and Timberlake, who was in on this bill as well, need to be thrown out of office for bringing up such a stupid bill, thats going nowhere, up to a vote. Hill is right about Smith as well. He will write anything and everything, if somebody is paying him to do it. Give it up George, its getting kind of lame already. George Smith, the new human weather vane.

  38. Facts, facts, facts Hozhed. The bill was sponsored by a representative from Deer Isle while Black and Timberlake were 2 of 7 co-sponsors.
    So there!

  39. @surprised- Maine has over one million acres of public land. That is where you go if you don’t own land. Some of the best hunting and fishing is on this property. You must be able to find some spot to slay animals and pick flowers on a million acres! Reminder-no Maine resident is a freeloader. We all are paying for the above mentioned acreage.

  40. This bill is absolutely ridiculous. Many posting have got it right: it is not easy to get let owners permission every time you want to step foot on land and whoever says otherwise does not venture very far. It seems that some people here cannot see past their little piece of property and forget that Maine is a huge state. Well marked property lines everywhere?? You must live in downtown Freeport. It is really too bad that a few bad apples are wasting Maine’s taxpayers and money on absurd bills like this, but like so many people have said, if posted signs are ignored, what will make this any different.

    Furthermore, I am OUTRAGED at some of the postings in favor of this bill. I understand it is your land and you have the right to vote any way you want, but for some of you to insinuate that fisherman and hunters don’t pay their taxes or fiddleheaders and other outdoorsmen are freeloaders is downright offensive. Maine is a beautiful and unique state that should be enjoyed by anyone who wants to. If you can’t understand that and you are too lazy to post your land, I suggest you go back to whatever ivory tower you came from.

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