Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Private Land

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 34-35.

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While the vast majority of the land proposed for protection in the Oregon Desert Conservation Act is public, significant amounts of private land do exist. While ODCA would seek to acquire several hundreds of thousands of acres of private land (essentially all uninhabited) from willing sellers, it is still private land and must be respected.

Much of the private land is not "posted," and landowners allow people to walk over and even camp, hunt, fish, and so forth, on their property. The normal rule of "ask first" doesn't work well in the more remote portions of the Oregon Desert, in that these are for the most part unoccupied inholdings within the vast public domain. There is no one around to ask.

The rules of doing no damage, leaving no mess, leaving gates as you found them, and so on, still apply.

If a property is posted, don't cross it. Go around or go back. Otherwise you have committed criminal trespass in the second degree, a Class C misdemeanor (ORS 164.245), and are now liable for up to $1,000 in civil damages.

You may come across:

• "No Trespassing" signs mounted on fenceposts adjacent to the road in a way to suggest that going farther on the road would be trespass.

• A little signboard, with no sign, but creating the lingering impression that the sign has been torn off (perhaps the corner is left).

• A fancy gate (not locked) with ranch brand/logo across the road (notice that it has no "No Trespassing" signs).

The author has experienced numerous instances such as these in which, in fact, the road in question was a public right-of-way. All were designed to intimidate public land users. While the land on both sides of the road may be privately owned, the road itself may be a public access to public land. If sure, proceed.

Sometimes you may come upon a "No Trespassing" sign facing the way you are leaving private property. Many private landowners don't fully post their property. If you are driving, even if the gate is locked, before turning around, inspect for another gate or spliced fence nearby through which to safely get back to public land or roads.

The 1999 Oregon legislature tightened the trespass law to allow "posting" with a blaze of 50 square inches of fluorescent orange paint, or less if it is the top of metal fenceposts. Such blazes or other postings must be no more than 1/4 mile along a roadway and may not be on posts where a public road enters private land. If signs are used, they must be at least 8.5 x 11 inches and include the name, address, and telephone number, if any, of the owner or agent (House Bill 2801 as enrolled, 70th Oregon Legislative Assembly, 1999).

The BLM recreation maps show land ownership, but they aren't perfectly accurate. If not sure, don't proceed.

The author has also experienced several instances in which a very large bull was pastured in a small fenced area where someone had to exit the vehicle twice to deal with gates. It is another way the rancher tells you that you aren't welcome, even though it is a public road on or to public land.