Supporting the Arizona state trust land permit system is essential for our state.
There is a lot of confusion in the outdoor community about the Arizona state trust land permits. I have heard everything from “You’re not allowed on trust land” to “You need a group permit.”
A lot of people insist you need the Arizona State Trust Land Recreation Permit to drive an Arizona backroad, but is it true?
Here are the ins and outs of the Arizona state trust land recreation permit.
In Arizona, we have private, Indian, state, and federal lands. Each with different rules and regulations. In the past 20 years, the rules haven’t changed much, and doing what I do, it’s crucial to have a permit. You can’t travel any dirt trail without eventually running into state trust land.
Trust lands are found all across the state in either small sporadic parcels here and there. Or vast parcels that cover hundreds of acres. State trust land parcels can also be found in a checkerboard pattern in the northern part of the state.
In most cases, unless you have a map with land boundaries, you’ll never know you’re on state trust land. Most trust land is gated for the use of ranchers who lease the properties. Sometimes, you’ll find a sign indicating “No Trespassing,” but that is not always the case. In isolated areas, you will not find any signs, and it’s important to know what land you’re on at all times.
A recreation permit is NOT required to cross state trust land with a registered motor vehicle. However, once you stop the vehicle, you need a permit. If you don’t have a permit, you cannot stop to stretch your legs, take pictures, fuel up, nothing! The likelihood of not stopping is slim to nothing in some large trust land parcels. Stopping to open a gate is likely required, thus putting you in violation of the rules.
The same rules apply to Off-Highway Vehicles that have the Off-Highway Vehicle sticker. An OHV is legally defined as any motorized vehicle manufactured for offroad use that weighs less than 2500 lbs. The OHV sticker is your contribution to the Arizona OHV fund. The OHV fund is a vital funding source for Arizona Parks and Recreation and Arizona Game and Fish.
A recreation permit is NOT required for hunters who are trying to harvest during hunting season. Or fishermen harvesting Arizona’s rivers. Your hunting and fishing license is your permit, but only while actively hunting or fishing, and that is it.
Don’t think you can manipulate this exception. Those who enforce trust land permits are well aware of the rules.
Many people will tell you a hunting and fishing license is the same as a Trust land recreation permit, but this is not true. A hunting or fishing license grants you access to state trust land while actively hunting or fishing. It does not permit an individual to stage a trailer, park an RV, or set up camp.
Entering Arizona state trust land without a permit is considered trespassing and can land you in some big trouble. Any law enforcement officer has the authority to write tickets and jail violators. This includes Arizona Game and Fish, county sheriff’s deputies and local police, BLM, and forest rangers.
A group recreation permit is NOT required if everyone has an individual permit. Group permits are intended for groups up to 20 people who don’t have an individual permit. The group permit is good for a one-time event no longer than 5 days.
For example, the host of a birthday party can purchase the group permit on behalf of the attendees who do not have their individual permits.
A special use permit is required for organized events. Whether it is for-profit or non-profit, any event that is advertised publicly must obtain a special-use permit. A special-use permit takes months to approve and is not cheap. It requires the use of toilet facilities and many other special requirements. This includes public events organized over Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform.
Arizona State trust land permits are required for the individual, not the vehicle. Each person must have a permit while visiting state trust land unless a group permit is available. You can purchase an individual permit or a family permit. The family permit will cover two adults and two children. Both the family and individual permits are valid for 1 year.
A recreational permit IS required to park, stand, hike, photograph, mountain bike, camp, geocache, unload your trailer, park your motor home, or any other recreational activity on state trust land. As soon as you stop your vehicle, you are required to have an Arizona state trust land recreation permit.
There are a few other facts about state trust land.
Lands leased for agriculture, mining, or military use are not open for recreational use and are usually marked with a sign. Motorized access is granted as long as you don’t stop. Access may be closed altogether per agreements with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.
Ranchers cannot close Gates or prohibit access on state trust land unless permission is granted by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.
Prospecting, treasure hunting, and rock hounding are only allowed upon payment of a lease agreement.
Motorized travel is not considered a recreational activity.
Target shooting is strictly prohibited except during licensed hunting.
Arizona State trust land is not public land. The property is used for Arizona’s 13 trust beneficiaries. The top recipients being our public school system and state prisons.
Visiting historic or prehistoric archaeological sites is also prohibited.
The Arizona State trust land Recreation permit is a contract between you and the state confirming you will comply with certain guidelines.
Where does the money go from the Arizona State Trust land permit?
The money generated from the Arizona state trust is used for 13 beneficiaries. Arizona’s public schools and state prisons are the two largest beneficiaries. Several funding sources contribute to the state’s trust. Agriculture, mining, land liquidation, state parks, permits, and licenses generate a vital income source for the most important government programs in Arizona.
For example, Arizona ranchers fund 65% of public education through agriculture leases on state trust land. The federal government funds 10%, and the remaining 25% is allocated by the legislature. Without this funding, our schools would be running at less than 50% of their current capacity.
The Arizona state trust is part of statehood. When Arizona became a state, it was written into our constitution. Our founders considered it an important part of the state’s rights and sovereignty. These issues were widely documented during the Madison debates, and we highly suggest that everyone learn the history.
The Arizona State trust land permit is only $15; just go buy one.
Although a permit may not be required in some cases, it’s a good idea to get one anyway. Getting caught without one can carry a hefty fine, possible jail time, and criminal trespassing charges. Getting the permit, will eliminate any chance of trouble and allow you to legally take advantage of more opportunities.
Having a GPS device with land boundaries will help you know what type of land you’re on and better understand what rules need to be followed.
Special thanks to Steve from trespassing at the Arizona state trust land department for helping me complete my research on this subject.
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