Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The facts about the Arizona state trust land permit

Supporting the Arizona state trust land permit system is important 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 a permit to drive a trail. But is it all true? Here are the ins and outs of the Arizona state trust land recreation permit.


Arizona state trust land sign
Arizona state trust land sign

In Arizona, we have private, Indian, state and federal lands. Each with different rules and regulations. The rules have been the same since I started enjoying what Arizona trust lands have to offer. Doing what I do, it's important to have a permit. You can't travel any dirt trail without eventually running into state trust land. Trust lands are either sporadic, with only small parcels here and there. Or vast, covering hundreds of acres. They can also be found in a checkerboard pattern in the northern part of the state. Plus, I never wanna be held back on an awesome opportunity.

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 lands. 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. It's important to know what land you're on at all times.

See my recommendation on the best GPS unit available. 

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.

The same rules apply to unregistered 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 source of funding 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 believe, if you have a hunting or fishing license, it gives you the right to camp. This couldn't be further from the truth. A hunting or fishing license grants you access to state trust land while actively hunting or fishing. If you get caught, you will be cited and charged with criminal trespassing.

A group recreation permit is NOT required for a group of people to enjoy state trust land. A group permit is meant for a one-time private event where everyone may not have their individual permit. It will cover a group of 20 people for 5 days. If everyone has an individual permit, no group permit is required.

A special use permit is required for organized events. Any event that is advertised publicly, whether is for-profit or non-profit, 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 and every 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 good 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. 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 that are 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.

Prospecting, treasure hunting, and rock hounding are only allowed upon payment of a lease agreement.

Motorized travel is not considered a recreational activity.

Shooting is strictly prohibited except during licensed hunting.

Arizona State trust land is not public land. The land is used for Arizona's 13 trust beneficiaries. The top beneficiaries being our public school system and state prisons.

Visiting historic or prehistoric archaeological sites is also prohibited.

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 large fine and criminal trespassing charges. Having a GPS device with land boundaries will help you know what type of land you're on. Having this information will help you 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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