onX Access Efforts and Maine vs. Colorado Private Land Liability Laws

It seems like adding access to public lands is something everyone agrees on, unless I suppose, you are neighbors and there are undesirable effects of “bad apples”.  Or if you think more recreation means more negative environmental impacts.   Well, anyway.. turns out that onX (a company that has apps for hikers, off-roaders and hunters) also contributes to efforts to gain more access to public lands.

Here’s their philosophy:

A coalition of outdoor enthusiasts is stronger than divided groups. The various outdoor communities don’t always agree on how public lands should be managed. But the fact is, industrial development and suburban sprawl are larger threats to our ability to access public lands and waters, and every outdoor community is impacted, directly or indirectly. Efforts to preserve recreational access and keeping open land open will be more effective when outdoor enthusiasts work side-by-side, instead of focusing on our differences and fighting individual battles. By standing up for everyone’s right to access the outdoors, we’ll protect our own right to adventure.

I thought this about Maine was interesting.

Private Land, Public Access

This whole system is founded directly on Maine’s Landowner Liability Law, which is explained by the town of York, “If someone uses your land or passes through your premises for outdoor recreation or harvesting, you assume no responsibility and incur no liability for injuries to that person or that person’s property. You are protected whether or not you give permission to use the land.” This law has instilled good faith within landowners, primarily of large swaths such as timber company holdings, to allow recreational access of all kinds so that the general public can enjoy Maine’s treasured lands.

Well, why is land conservation so important right now in Maine if everything that isn’t posted is good to go? According to Maine Inland Fish and Wildlife, roughly 94% of the forested part of state is privately held. That means that most recreation that happens—whatever your vehicle, discipline, sport, or pastime—is likely going to happen on private land. When the state was mostly farmers and population density was low, that made it simple to know the neighbors across the stone wall. Now, increasing real estate sales, with smaller acreages, are resulting in a state increasingly segmented and, as previously mentioned, posted. This illustrates the importance that land trusts preserve public access, and keep the tradition alive.

In Colorado, we have something similar but perhaps not quite good enough as per this Colorado Sun story about 14ers..

Welcome to the woods. Please scan this code and swear you won’t sue.

After several months of closure, the Decalibron Loop trail accessing four 14ers in the Mosquito Range near Alma will reopen Friday to any hiker who scans and signs a liability waiver on their phones.

Landowner John Reiber is installing signs with a QR code on the road leading from Alma to Kite Lake, the starting point of the 7-mile Decalibron Loop trail that connects Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross. If hikers scan the code with their phones and e-sign the waiver, they will be able to legally access Reiber’s property along the Decalibron Loop. If they do not, they will be trespassing.

“This is not a true solution,” Reiber said. “This is a temporary Band-Aid to the problem. The true solution is for us to get the state law changed and fix the Colorado Recreational Use Statute. That is the ultimate fix not just for me but a lot of landowners.”

The owner of private property along the Decalibron Loop trail traversing 14ers in the Mosquito Range near Alma is opening his land to hikers who scan QR codes and sign a liability waiver. (Courtesy photo)

Reiber, who owns a patchwork of mining properties that lead to the summits of Mount Lincoln and Mount Democrat, is among a growing coalition of landowners worried they could be sued by recreational visitors on their land.

I wonder whether private land liability is an issue elsewhere?

1 thought on “onX Access Efforts and Maine vs. Colorado Private Land Liability Laws”

  1. Yes, very big concern in most states. Christmas tree farmers who use a “choose and cut” operation (I used to be one), interacted with the National Agriculture Law Center. Now that we are livestock and forestland owners, it is still a very good resource for assessing liability, and coverages recommended for protection.

    I still remember a presentation they (Law) did, referencing the three types of claimants; Invitee’s, Permittee’s and Trespassers. Each have their own scale of liabilities, as they affect the landowner.


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