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What is the Freedom to Roam?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The freedom to roam is the general public’s right to access some types of land for pleasure or exercise. This right is also known as the everyman’s right, right of public access to the wilderness, and the right to roam. Many countries uphold the freedom to roam, but what land falls under the right varies around the world. This right generally gives access to uncultivated land, even if it is privately owned, but it can also give access to lakes, ponds, and fruit trees on private property, depending on the country. While access granted by the right varies, there is one rule that remains constant: a person using his or her right to roam should not do harm or destroy the land or wildlife in the process.

In general, this right grants access to uncultivated land, including parks. Some countries take this one step further and grant access to private waters. The local government might also order the take down of fences obstructing the public’s access to exercise their freedom to roam. Often, the traveler can set up a tent on the land for one night, but if he or she is on private property, permission by the landowner must be granted to stay longer. Generally, travel trailers, caravans, or similar vehicles meant for extended travel do not fall under the freedom to roam.

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Freedom to roam restrictions also vary between country; for example, sometimes camping is not allowed at all without the permission of the landowner, even if the traveler is using a tent. Horseback riding and bicycling are two activities that can go either way, depending on the country. Many countries simply protect the basic right to walk or run through a forested area.

Littering, damaging local flora, and endangering wildlife is normally frowned upon. In addition, the freedom to roam usually does not give the traveler the right to make loud noises or otherwise disturb wildlife or the landowner in any way. This right also does not give the traveler permission to break other laws; for example, it is still illegal to destroy protected plants or injure or kill protected animals.

As the population grows, some people have grown concerned about the impact of the freedom to roam right. In popular areas, there is a great risk of litter and damage to the land or wildlife from travelers. Some countries have evaluated and limited their right to roam laws in response to this growing concern.

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