In Fiscal Year 2022, recreational use of Trust Land contributed $1,283,649 to public education and other institutions in Montana. 

Montana state trust lands are unique to other public lands because they have a constitutional purpose to generate money for public schools and other institutions. Revenue is generated on State Trust Land through leases, licenses, commercial timber, and mineral development.

Recreation on State Trust Land

Most legally accessible trust lands are open to the public for recreational use.

With the correct required license, most state trust land can be used for genereal recreation activities like hiking, dog walking, bicycling, hunting, fishing, camping, and more. 

Hunting and fishing is authorized through a Conservation License purchased through Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. All other dispersed recreational use requires a State Lands Recreational Use License. See the Required Licenses tab below for more info. 

Printable Guidelines

A license is required to recreate on Montana trust land.  The appropriate license depends on the activity.   

Conservation License

Annual license requred to hunt and/or fish on State Trust Land.

 

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State Lands Recreational Use License

Annual license required for dispersed recreation on State Trust Land like hiking, cross-country skiing, dog walking, etc.

March 1 – February 28
Adult: $10
Family: $20
Child/Senior: $5
Special Recreation Use License (SRUL)

Commercial or concentrated recreation (organized, developed, or coordinated) like outfitting, or special events.

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Recreational use of trust land is regulated through statute and administrative rules.  See 77-1-800 MCA et. Seq and ARM 36.25.143-36.25.167 for more information.  

General Guidelines

Motorized Vehicles:
• Open: public roads (federal, state, and dedicated county roads)
• Closed: All other roads unless signed otherwise by DNRC.
• Parking: within 50 feet of a public road. Do not block gates or roads.

E-Bikes are considered motorized vehicles on trust land. They are allowed on public roads only.

Snowmobiles are limited to public roads through leased land but are generally allowed off-road on unleased land. There may be environmental factors that limit snowmobile use in certain areas. Contact the local DNRC field office to confirm allowable use in specific areas.

Pets must be on a leash or otherwise under control.

Horseback Riding is generally allowed on trust land. Horses must be restrained and cannot be within any stream riparian zone for more than one hour. Feed must be certified weed seed free.

Camping is allowed within 200 feet of access point. Stay is limited to 2 days on leased land, and up to 16 days per month on unleased land.

Campfires are not allowed on leased land.

Firearms:
• shooting is not allowed within ¼ mile of a dwelling or associated outbuilding.
• See access webpage for locations of other special restrictions.
• Targets and debris must be cleaned up.

Littering: Pack it in, pack it out.

Gates: Leave gates the way you find them – if it’s closed, close it behind you.

Land use: Trust lands are always at work earning money to fund schools. Most are leased for agriculture or grazing, or under active timber management. Be mindful of lessee rights; respect fences, gates, and other privately-owned improvements.

Fire Info:  Check out https://mtfireinfo.org for active fire restrictions, current wildfire info, and preparedness & prevention.

Recreation on trust land is conditioned on legal access, and subject to certain closures and restrictions.  

Legal Access

Legal Access means you can get to the trust land by: Not Legal Access:
  • public road
  • adjacent public land
  • public waters under stream access law
  • permission from adjacent private landowner.
  • public access agreement between private landowner and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
  • Access by aircraft
  • Crossing private land without permission
 

Closures and Restrictions

Not all trust land is open to public recreation. 

Categorical (blanket) Closures

Recreation is not allowed on trust land that:

  • has active growing crops
  • is for residential use (cabin/home sites)
  • is leased for commercial use
  • has active military training
  • has extreme wildfire threat
  • Is otherwise specifically closed or restricted. 

Site-specific Restrictions and Closures. 

Signs are posted at common access points.

Interactive Map  

Temporary Management Closures

Signs are posted at common access points.  These are not always included in the restrictions map due to short duration.  

View List

 

 

Notification Requirements

Agriculture or grazing lessees may require notification (not permission) prior to entry on legally accessible trust land.  If notification is required, signs will be posted at common access points with lessee contact information.   

Additionally, state trust land may be included in Block Management Agreements.  In those instances, block management rules apply.  

Recreationists are encouraged to communicate with lessees and adjacent landowners when recreating near private land.

Montana Trust Lands are working lands that generate funds for public schools, and they are a vital component to Montana’s farming and ranching, forest products, and energy industries.