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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 444-2074 | Fax: (406) 444-2684
Questions? Email us

Recreational Use of State Land


Buy Rec Use License

License Types & Requirements

Recreational use of state trust land is divided into two categories: general recreation and special recreation.  Special recreation is further divided by activity type. The type of license required depends on the activity.

General Recreation

  • By definition "General Recreation" includes most types of noncommercial and/or nonconcentrated activities. 
  • Excepted activities are cutting and gathering firewood, collecting valuable rocks/minerals, mineral exploration, and collection or disturbance of archaeological, historical, or paleontological sites (fossils, artifacts, dinosaur bones, old buildings, etc.). These excepted activities require separate and specific authorization from DNRC and are not authorized under the trust land recreational use program.
  • By agreement between DNRC and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (DFWP), persons who possess a valid Montana Conservation License from DFWP will be authorized to engage in hunting, fishing, and trapping on legally accessible state trust lands that are not closed or restricted to such use.

State Land Recreational Use License

  • Persons desiring to conduct all other types of noncommercial and/or nonconcentrated types of activities falling within the definition of "general recreational use", such as camping, hiking, skiing, sight-seeing, horseback use, etc., unless such activities are conducted in conjunction with and incidental to hunting, fishing, and trapping, will be required to possess a "State Land Recreational Use License", which is available from any authorized DFWP license agent or through DFWP's online license service at the following web address: https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html.

Special Recreational Use License - General

  • A Special Recreational Use License (SRUL) which is available only from DNRC offices, is required for trapping, commercial recreational use (such as outfitting), and concentrated (group) use.
  • A SRUL is also required for uses outside of the restrictions applicable to general recreational use. For example, overnight horseback use for more than two consecutive days on leased/licensed trust lands or overnight use (camping) more than 200 feet from a customary access point.
  • Applications for Special Recreational Use Licenses for concentrated group use, overnight horse-back use for more than two days, and overnight use (camping) more than 200 feet from a customary access point, or for more than two days on leased/licensed state trust lands, should be submitted to the appropriate Land Office at a minimum of one month in advance of the planned event to insure ample time for the Department to review the application.
  • After the application has been received and reviewed, the Land Office may issue the appropriate SRUL for the above referenced type of use for a fee to be determined by the Land Office.
  • A SRUL application for recreational uses other than for outfitting or trapping may be downloaded via the following link. Form-RU3 Non-Outfitted Application.pdf

Outfitting

  • Commercial outfitting for hunting, fishing, or other outdoor recreational activities is permissible on state trust lands under a valid SRUL license issued specifically for that purpose.
  • A SRUL application for Outfitting on state trust lands may be downloaded via the following link.  SRUL Outfitting App.pdf
  • For information and submission requirements for a SRUL outfitting license, please click the following link. Link to SRUL License Information.pdf (This file is not presently on the website)

Trapping

  • Prior to trapping on state trust land, all persons 12 years old and older must first apply for and be issued a “Special Recreational Use License for Trapping” (SRULT) from DNRC.
  • There will be no additional fee charged for a SRULT.
  • Trapping activities will be restricted to those lands and subject to all terms and conditions as DNRC may approve in the Special Recreational Use License.
  • The term of a SRULT will not exceed one year.
  • Applications for a SRULT are accepted March 1 of each year in which trapping authorization is requested and will expire no later than February 28 of the following year.  The application deadline is September 30th.
  • Important additional information is contained within the brochure entitled “A GUIDE TO TRAPPING ON MONTANA STATE TRUST LANDS”. A copy may be downloaded at the following link. Trapping Guide.pdf 
  • Click on the following link to download a SRUL Trapping application.  SRULT Trapping Application.pdf 

Violations

  • Failure to possess a valid recreational use license, or refusal to present a license on demand to a DNRC employee, game warden, or other law enforcement personnel is a violation subject to prosecution and fines.
  • Violation of any other provision governing recreational use of state land is subject to civil prosecution and fines.

Access

  • Legally accessible state land is state land that can be accessed by dedicated public roads (roads usable by the public under state or federal law, or which are under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Transportation, or a county or municipal government); public rights-of-way or easements; by public waters such as rivers and streams that are recreationally navigable under Section 23-2-302, MCA; by adjacent federal, state, county or municipal land if the land is open for public use, or by adjacent private land if permission to cross the private land is secured from the land owner.
  • Entry from state land onto private land, regardless of the absence of fencing or proper notice by the landowner, without permission from the landowner, is trespassing!
  • Most state land boundaries are not marked and many are not fenced. Please refer to area BLM or USFS maps for land ownership patterns, or consult with the adjacent landowner or lessee, to determine the boundary locations on the ground.
  • Posting of state land with orange paint or signs such as "No Hunting" or "No Trespassing" is illegal. Lessees may post state land with blue paint to signify no unauthorized use. However, if such land is legally accessible, and has not been closed or restricted to recreational use by rule or by DNRC, recreational use by individuals with a proper recreational use license is permitted.

Closures

If all or a portion of a tract of trust land is closed, it is closed to All Recreational Uses by All parties.
Categorical Closures:
  • Upon receipt of a valid request for closure of a specific tract of state land, DNRC may, after an opportunity for a public hearing, categorically close the land for any of the following reasons or conditions.
    • Disruption of livestock
    • Weed control
    • Damage to surface improvements of the lessee
    • Wildlife protection
    • The presence of unique or special cultural or natural features
    • The presence of threatened, endangered or sensitive plant or animal species or communities
    • The presence of buildings, structures or facilities
    • If recreational use would diminish the income generating potential of the state land
  • Categorical closures can be temporary, seasonal, or permanent.
Management Closures/Restrictions
  • State land can be temporarily closed, or recreational use restricted, if any of the following conditions exist that would interfere with the lessees management of those lands.
    • Concentration of livestock for special/intensive breeding or for calving, lambing, shipping, weaning
    • Livestock being gathered or moved
    • Recent weed control treatments
    • Active irrigation (however, irrigated land is not closed to foot traffic during hunting season)
  • Land close to a lessee’s dwelling, structures or other facilities may be closed or restricted except for the purpose of entering or leaving the state lands.
  • Lands closed to recreational use must be posted at all customary access points.

Restrictions

  • Motorized Vehicle Use is restricted to federal, state, and dedicated county roads or other roads regularly maintained by the county, or to other roads which have been designated open by DNRC.
  • Off road travel is prohibited.
  • Snowmobile use is allowed on roads if permitted by local traffic laws or regulations.
    • On leased lands, snowmobile use is restricted to the roads mentioned above.
    • On unleased lands, snowmobile use is allowed in all areas except where it is expressly prohibited.
  • Disabled Hunters who possess a permit to hunt from a vehicle issued by DFWP are authorized to drive on any road on state land, except a road closed by the department by sign or barrier.
  • Parking by recreationists on state land is allowed within 50 feet of a customary access point; on federal, state and county roads in accordance with local traffic laws or regulations; or within 50 feet of a road designated open by DNRC. Parking must not block other vehicle access to the tract, damage the land or a lessee’s improvements, or otherwise create a hazard.
  • Discharge of Firearms must be conducted in a careful and prudent manner.
    • Firearms may not be discharged within 1/4 mile of an inhabited dwelling or outbuilding without permission from the inhabitant; or on state land where DNRC has restricted firearms.
  • Discharge of firearms not in conjunction with licensed hunting may require prior notification to the lessee. (See Notification of Activities).
  • Open Fires on leased or licensed state land are restricted to designated campgrounds.
  • Pets must be kept on a leash or otherwise under the control of the recreationist.
  • Interference with a lessee's or recreationist's legitimate use of state lands is prohibited.  Remember, respect each others' rights.
  • Block Management Areas and Wildlife Management Areas, administered by the DFWP, may include state land. Recreational use of state land in these areas must be conducted in accordance with the rules and regulations specific to that management area. A Recreational Use License is still required for recreational use of state trust lands enrolled in these areas.
  • Overnight use (camping) on leased or licensed state land outside of a designated campground is allowed within 200 feet of a customary access point but is limited to two consecutive days.  Recreational overnight use of state lands is limited to 16 days in a 30-day period in a designated campground and on unleased or unlicensed lands outside a designated campground unless otherwise allowed by the department.

  • Overnight horseback use for more than two consecutive days on leased or licensed lands or for more than 16 days within a 30-day period for unleased and unlicensed lands is prohibited without a Special Recreational Use License.  Horses may be kept overnight on state lands with the following constraints: 1) the horses do not remain in a stream riparian zone for more than 1 hour; 2) horses are to be fed with only certified noxious weed seed free forage;  and 3) the horses must be restrained.

  • Fireworks are prohibited.

  • Littering is prohibited.

Notification of Activities

  • A lessee may require notification (not permission) either in person, by telephone, or drop box, from recreationists prior to entry onto leased or licensed state land.
  • The type of notification required depends on the type of recreational activity being conducted and the type of notification requested.
  • If notification is required, the state land must be posted at customary access points with signs available from the DNRC and include the name, phone number, and directions to the residence of the person to be notified, or the location of the drop box.

General Notification Guidelines

  • All Overnight Use or Horseback or Firearm Use Not in Conjunction With Licensed Hunting: Personal or drop box notification at the designated notice location is required.
  • Overnight use in conjunction with floating requires personal notification if the designated notice location is less than 500 yards from the state land access point. If greater than 500 yards, drop box notification is sufficient.
  • Other Uses: Personal notification is required only if the distance from the state tract to the designated notice location or nearest public telephone is less than 5 road miles. If the lessee cannot be contacted, or the distance is greater than 5 miles, a drop box must be provided at customary access points to the tract.
  • If personal notification is required, the lessee must be available from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. to receive such notification. Upon request, the recreationist must provide their name, address, and recreational license number; and, if requested, must also provide this information for members of their party.
  • Proper Notification entitles the recreationist(s) to engage in general recreational activities for three consecutive days, or a longer period if authorized by the lessee, without re-notification.

Enforcement

Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks game wardens enforce the laws and rules pertaining to recreational use of state lands for hunting and fishing. DNRC personnel and other state and local law enforcement personnel may also be involved in the enforcement of these laws and rules.

To Report Violations

Contact a Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks warden or call 1-(800) TIP-MONT

For More Information Regarding Recreational Use on State Lands  Contact your nearest DNRC office.  Office locations, administrative areas, and contact information is provided in the following document. Trust Lands & Forestry Offices

Special Closures & Restrictions      **NEW**

A report listing tracts that have special hunting restrictions or closures is available for download at the following web link.  Closures & Restrictions

Not listed are the parcels affected by the Categorical and Management Closures or Restrictions as referenced above or in ARM 36.25.153.  It also does not include tracts that have special Block Management Restrictions.

FAQ’s

To access Frequently Asked Questions about Recreating on State Trust Lands, please click on the following link.      (Rec Use FAQs)

Administrative Rules

The Administrative Rules of Montana pertaining to Recreational Use on state trust lands may be downloaded at the following link.    State Land Recreational Use Rules.pdf 

Application Forms, Documents, & Reference Information

Please visit the web page where all the associated application forms, instructions, guides, FAQs, and administrative rules pertaining to the trust land recreational use program may be downloaded.