Regulatory Program: Sovereign Lands Management

North Dakota’s sovereign lands are those areas, including beds and islands, lying within the ordinary high watermarks of navigable lakes and streams. The State of North Dakota plays an important role in the management of sovereign land through DWR, which is responsible for administering the state’s non-mineral interests in North Dakota’s sovereign lands.

DWR's goal in managing this vital resource is to manage, operate, and supervise North Dakota’s sovereign land, for multiple uses, that are consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine, and are in the best interest of present and future generations. Meeting these goals can be challenging given the increasing popularity of water-based recreation, and the draw of waterfront property for development. The uses and issues surrounding North Dakota’s sovereign lands continue to increase, and this in turn has prompted the DWR to take a more active role in managing this popular resource.

In 2007, the North Dakota Sovereign Land Management Plan was completed. This plan outlined North Dakota's authority to manage sovereign lands and it included recommendations and corresponding action strategies that are intended to improve management of this valuable resource. This management plan is still in use today.

The DWR continues to make ordinary high watermark delineations throughout the state, mostly along the Missouri River.

Because the DWR does not currently employ law enforcement staff, a contract agreement has been developed with the Game and Fish Department to have their existing game wardens assist with sovereign land – related law enforcement, since they are already in the field. Coordination efforts for law enforcement have also been discussed with other local law enforcement entities.

Program Rules

North Dakota Administrative Code - Link to Article 89-10 "Sovereign Lands"

North Dakota Century Code - Links to 61-33 "Sovereign Land Management"

Guidance on Sovereign Lands Management

Guide To Navigating North Dakota Navigable Waters

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Sovereign Lands Management Applications

Authorization To Construct A Project Within Sovereign Lands Of North Dakota (SFN 61408)

Registration For Placement Of A Standard Dock Under 25 Feet Long On Specified Waters (SFN 61441)


For more information on Sovereign Lands, please contact Gerald R. (Jerry) Heiser, Sovereign Lands Manager, (701) 328-4935 or e-mail.