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Healthy Forests, Today and Tomorrow

Fences and Fence Law

The boundaries of your land are critical not only to define the extent of your land but also to determine which trees belong to you.  Having well defined boundaries, either with fencing or with signs or other markings, is important in your forestry practices and especially in any timber harvest.  Make certain that any surveyor marks or posts are clearly visible and maintained.

Illinois Fence Law specifies that adjoining neighbors (in counties under 1,000,000 in population, to exempt Cook County) are responsible for their share of any boundary fence installation and maintenance.  That is not to say that a fence always has to separate adjoining parcels, but if one owner desires a fence, then his neighbors must, by law, share the cost.  This obviously benefits livestock facilities and farmers since your trees are not likely to wander off of your property, except in windstorms.  However, having a well-defined boundary with a fence is beneficial and being a good neighbor is important if you are going to own your land as long as your trees live.

The complete Fence Law (765 ILCS 130) as it is written and passed for Illinois can be found here.  It describes landowner responsibilities, how disputes are settled, and liabilities of each party.


Having your boundaries clearly marked is important, but that does not mean others will pay any attention to those boundaries.  Illinois law provides that someone cannot enter upon your land legally if you notify unwanted visitors that they are not welcome.  You can do that orally, which obviously means you have to find them on your land.  Or you can notify them with "a printed or written notice forbidding such entry has been conspicuously posted or exhibited at the main entrance to such land" as the law says.  Of course, just posting a single sign at the entrance to your lane satisfies the law, but you probably want hunters and hikers and morel foragers to know immediately when they have crossed your boundaries.  That will require posting signs around the perimeter of your property.  The Illinois legislature has recently passed the "Purple Paint Law" which will make this perimeter marking much easier.  When the governor signs the bill and the IDNR issues guidelines, you will be able to mark your boundaries with striped of purple paint on trees, buildings, or posts along your boundaries.

The Illinois Law that pertains to trespass on land can be found here.  A discussion and status of the Purple Paint Law can be found here.

If someone trespasses or poaches on your land, and if you would like a law enforcement official to deal with the trespasser, phone either your county sheriff or the nearest state police district office.  They will determine whether there is an IDNR Conservation Police Officer (CPO) on duty.  If there is a CPO on duty, they will dispatch the CPO.  If the CPO is off-duty, then the sheriff's officers will respond.  Remember that the landowner must file the complaint; you cannot report a trespasser on a neighbor's property and expect a response.


A related topic is that of easements to your property and to adjoining properties.  Rather than duplicate a very comprehensive discussion of easements here, see the Wikipedia article on this subject.

Your Responsibility

It is not right that someone should enter upon your land illegally.  However, that does not absolve you from all liability if they should be injured while there.  For a discussion of this topic, see the next page entitled "General Liability".

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