The Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission has no jurisdiction or responsibility for the enforcement of these laws. This information is provided as a service. Please contact the proper authorities for any specific issue.

What is Open Range

This is a legal description of land in Idaho that is defined by Idaho code as “All unenclosed lands outside of cities, villages, and herd districts, upon which cattle, by custom, license, lease, or permit, are grazed or permitted to roam.” Basically, any land in the state that is not designated as a herd district and is not fenced is considered open range and thus, livestock can legally be on that land. Open range also applies to all public land whether managed by the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Idaho Dept. of Lands, or other federal entities who have livestock grazing permits.

Roads & Highways in Open Range

Many of Idaho’s roads and highways are in open range areas. In Idaho, nearly every town in the southern region of the state is surrounded by rangeland. That is approximately 22 million acres! Of that 22 million acres, 80% is managed by government entities. A majority of that public land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is impossible to ensure that every mile of fence was intact at all times. This necessitates the open range law. Drivers are responsible for their own safety. Obeying the laws and being aware of animals (wild or domestic) is very important in all western states.

Idaho Code 25-2118 states that “No person owning, or controlling the possession of, any domestic animals running on open range, shall have the duty to keep such animal off any highway on such range, and shall not be liable for damage to any vehicle or for injury to any person riding therein, caused by a collision between the vehicle and the animal.

Bill Myers with Holland & Hart prepared a summary of Idaho Open Range Law for a presentation on Nov. 2016.

Idaho Open Range Law by Holland & Hart Prepared and presented by Bill Myers (288 KB)

Herd Districts

Herd districts typically occur only on land that lies within city limits. As described in Title 25, Chapter 24 of the Idaho Code, a herd district:

  • Designated by county officials to prohibit animals from running at large, as they are permitted to on open range.
  • Must be created, modified, or eliminated by county commissioners.
  • Must be enclosed by legal fences and cattle guards. A “legal” fence is defined in Title 35, Chapter 1.
  • Does not apply to livestock that roam into the district from open range unless it is enclosed by lawful fences and cattle guards.

NEW: Whose-Cows-are-Those-AGL-11-23-21 Presented by: Kelly C. Stevenson Associate Attorney at Jones Williams Fuhrman Gourley, P.A.

NEW: The Idaho State Department of Agriculture created an interactive map to identify herd districts in Idaho (click here).

IRRC requested the herd district maps from each county in Idaho. Some counties (Adams, Benewah, Camas, Caribou, Clark, Custer, Lemhi, Oneida, and Teton) indicated that they do not have any active herd districts. This list is incomplete. Do not assume that a missing map means no herd districts. Updates and modifications are the responsibility of the county.

IRRC recommends that you contact the County Commissioner’s office for more information.