In response to several recent newspaper columns regarding an ugly hunter-landowner event, I remind the citizens of Maine of the Great Ponds Act. This statute permits a trespass by foot across unimproved property for the purpose of going to and from a natural body of water 10 acres or more.
The body of water that one could be going to or coming from does not have to be within the boundaries of the property on which the person is committing his or her lawful trespass. This amounts to a statutory easement in perpetuity unique to all Maine citizens. Nothing prevents the hunter or fisherman from toting his fish, wildlife or boat to or from a great pond since the trespass is specifically permitted for the purposes of hunting, fishing and boating. A good argument can be made for the enlargement of those purposes as well as for what one could do along the way.
In reality, “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs often have no legal significance in Maine since one cannot be guilty of criminal trespass while exercising his legal rights under an easement. In the case of a criminal trespass, the burden of proof rests with the state and the conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
I encourage the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and its able director, George Smith, to advise hunters, fishermen and other outdoor people of their rights as foot trespassers. I also encourage SAM to inform the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that their Landowner Relations Program, through its coordinator, does sportsmen a great disfavor. For it and he sends a message to landowners that sportsmen do not have a right of trespass across their lands or a right of trespass without asking permission.
I don’t condone a trespasser committing an assault upon another person as we have been so well informed with recent media coverage. Neither do I condone a person entering someone’s lawfully parked motor vehicle and placing a stick under his horn, especially when the owner of the vehicle could have been exercising his lawful right. Unfortunately, both parties took the law into their own hands and hence the ugly confrontation. Both parties need a visit to the courthouse but most of all, both parties need an education in each other’s rights and statutory limitations.
William R. Randall