I won't GoFund intentional law-breakers. I've resisted illegal corner crossings for decades, after all. That said, I do hope this case sets a hunter-friendly precedent for Wyoming, and other states follow suit, but I won't hold my breath. A lot of private landowner and outfitter interests and money will be used to fight corner crossings, unfortunately.
Jim Magagna (Wyoming Stock growers association) said… “Saying ‘we stepped across it’ to me does not meet the legal test or practical test that you didn’t trespass on my property,” he says. “You may not be physically harming the land because you didn’t put your foot on it, but I would contend that you are interfering with the private property rights with the owner of the land.”
That’s hilarious! But are you really interfering with their rights, or is there a bigger reason?
He has a point. Access to land locked public adds some serious value to private land in the west. It definitely has been a factor in the price and operations with land and not really "fair" to take that value away from someone who did nothing wrong and paid a premium for their land based on that access.
Of course stepping through a few inches of someone's airspace is a silly thing to pretend causes damage but the public getting to access a few thousand acres that you had to yourself before certainly can effect a land owner.
I'm on both sides. Like other laws, this wasn't addressed 100-150 years ago when land was laid out because hunting/recreational access wasn't a big deal and didn't garner the value it does now. Since then, its become a huge commodity that is important to private land owners and to the people wanting to access public land behind that private.
Not being able to access public land you can get to without touching any private is a crappy deal for the public. Losing land locked access you spent a lot of money to acquire is a crappy deal for land owners.
I will add that as a kid we corner hopped here in Northern Colorado without ever even considering it may not have been legal. It was before the internet and GPS and finding corners was often pretty hard. Since then a lot of those spots were "fixed" through a private/public land trade.
wilderness non res. was caused by the outfitters. bunch of b.s. federal land we all pay taxes on that national forest. funny you can fish, hike , and fck in wilderness but can't hunt??? hmmm? welcome to wyoming!
Seems like that would be a pretty rare thing for a judge to convict someone of. My neighbor's kid getting his Frisbee out of my front yard is a bigger "offense" than a boot crossing some airspace for a 1/2 a second but it would be silly to be upset about something like that. The actual offense isn't the issue. Its the impact of it no longer being an offense.
You can damage someones property value without ever setting foot on the property.
I'm not against it being deemed clearly legal to corner hop. I have ran into spots that could be good candidates. I just also recognize that it would impact people negatively who haven't done anything wrong.
I hope this case backs up the legality of corner hoping. The public is being harmed by not being allowed to use it. If it’s really private, deed it to the landowner. He already gets to use the grazing at a very cheap price and transport his hunters by vehicles to the area.
But let’s say the case comes out in the publics favor. What would keep the landowner from erecting some kind of structure on each of their two corners that would not allow anyone from stepping or jumping from public to public, and be too tall to erect a ladder that would get you over without touching?
Grey, some laws are meant to be tested/challenged. Like a black woman sitting down in a bus. She, after all, was a “intentional law breaker”
Here's the real question: If I walk along your property boundary - not stepping one inch over the line - and extend my arm over your property line while I walk - is this criminal trespassing? BTW - this is completely different than INTENIONALLLY trespassing to hunt/fish. That is a Game Violation. Not a Criminal Violation// As far as I'm aware there's is no such thing as private property airspace. Let them bring charges and defend their viewpoint against your Rights. Say you do corner cross via a ladder that never touches the fence posts? Where's the harm?
AZ, there is in fact laws that state a landowner owns a certain amount of airspace that they can reasonably use above their property. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to build structures, fences, or even plant trees.
I stand corrected, someone told me there is more to that tree limb law.
Michigan legislation shows that the value of trees here is high. If you trim the branch that is leaving apples on your property, for example, and that tree ends up dying because of your actions, the owner of that tree can bring a civil claim against you. In addition to filing a civil claim for being responsible for killing their tree, they are entitled to triple the value of the tree. Not only is the responsible party in the property dispute subject to fines, but can also face criminal charges and prison time. In Michigan, it is a crime to maliciously destroy a tree. Penalties for the destruction of an inexpensive tree can result in a one-year prison sentence. A more expensive tree – $1,000 – $20,000 – can land you up to 5 years in prison.
"Wyoming and most other Western states also have exceptions for waterways. Someone can boat down a river through private land in Wyoming, for example, as long as they don’t touch the bottom. Exactly why that isn’t an issue in airspace is unclear, which is where the gray area becomes even grayer."
JL, because there is no inherent right for the public to use land that is held in a public trust. Use of public land has always been restricted by the regulations of the government entities that are entrusted to manage the lands.
"He has a point. Access to land locked public adds some serious value to private land in the west. It definitely has been a factor in the price and operations with land and not really "fair" to take that value away from someone who did nothing wrong and paid a premium for their land based on that access."
You file this under the "tough chit" category. Those LO's didn't pay a dime for that land but sure use it like they own it. Just like all my neighbors who built patios and decks in their back yards so they could get a tan and swim in the irrigation canal. They used the same "lost value" argument when the canal district piped said canal. Now their patios look over a dirt road.
And there is no WY Statute that says corner crossing on WY is illegal. The only reason a deputy wrote a ticket is because the LO called the county attorney 15 times that day and she finally had enough. The deputy did nothing till she called him or his boss. Hunter harassment charges are in the works for the LO and several of his flunkies.
Matt....I would disagree. If public lands are open to the public for hunting...then they are open to the public. When you look at the maps of public land, the govt has no listings of restrictions or exclusions put in place by the adjoining property owners.....unless we're talking lands entered into BMA agreements with the govt. So in general, it's not the govt doing the restrictions. Also, ranchers could restrict anyone from flying in too (or floating the river) to any public land and that is not the case. We've heard of helo's dropping off hunters so that is not a new thing. Ranchers cherry-picking what public land the public has a right to access is counter to the right to use any public land. I suspect some outfitters like blocking the public from accessing corners too.
A while back ago, someone had a great idea of making all public land boundary lines "X" feet in width. That would give an overlap of public land at the corners. It doesn't solve the access issue to the fully enclosed parcels though.
Also.....IMO this is another good battle for the national organizations to get in and do something constructive for their public land members who have an interest in this.
JL, I agree with most of your post. The gray area of private air space rights have prevented access to legal hunting on public land for decades. It’s nothing new, and this case probably won’t change anything.
“How can a landowner place a corner brace for fence so close to the corner boundary marker that they don't encroach on public as well“
It’s always been deemed ok to put up a fence ON the property line, with half the fence encroaching on your neighbor. And if that doesn’t fly, just make a 90 degree corner that comes close but doesn’t encroach. Make it 3” from the property line on each side. No one can squeeze thru 6”
This will be a good test case that needed to happen. If the charges are thrown out it will set a precedent for anyplace where a survey or USGS marker exists. But given the relative inaccuracy of hand held GPS and phone apps like OnX, it may only apply where a hunter can prove he was EXACTLY on the corner. "Close" only counts in ...
But even with a favorable ruling for the hunters, the Elk Mountain Ranch owners and all the other affected ranch owners in the West have enough money and value at stake that it would be appealed to avoid setting a monstrous private land rights precedent. The reasoning behind this corner-hopping issue goes back to the USSC Causby ruling, so it may take another USSC ruling or Circuit decision that the USSC declines to hear.
JL, based upon court rulings, a hunter can be dropped into public land as long as they fly across the private land above the navigable airspace limit. That's how Randy Newberg does it, and why it differs from a ladder in this case.
Also, to your point about floating, on many waterways not ruled "navigable", ranchers can stop you. "The 1979 Colorado Supreme Court decision—People v. Emmert—ruled that a Colorado constitutional provision declaring the waters of every natural stream to be public property subject to appropriation did not grant public access for recreational use when the water flowed through private property.
Matt, you make too much sense. From a legal perspective it would require thousands of separate easement rulings. A blanket ruling by Congress would trigger a massive class action suit using the Takings Clause as precedent, that would drag on until you and I are worm food.
The other tricky little catch in the easement idea is that pesky verbiage in the USSC/Leo ruling that "recreation" is not a valid justification for government to force an easement across private property.
Given that only a tiny percentage of four percent of the overall population (hunters) gives an owl's hoot about this issue, and big donor money talks to politicians, a political solution is pretty remote. It will be really interesting to see how this case plays out.
Glad to see Wyoming BHA stepping up to organize the gofundme on the issue. It needs to be decided. I had a similar situation at an area I used to hunt, and although I was never charged, that didn't stop the landowner from constant harassment of me and others who hunt the property. Fortunately in my case, it is a case of only one corner that is easy to go around. The conflict is the point where the boundary actually is... Fenceline vs gps coordinates.
Jaq.....I had to do a little research on that. Each state has different interpretations of the stream laws, floating thru and what's allowed.
WRT to the 1979 Colorado case you mention, it was a split decision case and determined by two of the dissenters as a bad case law by the majority. One of the dissenters even brought up the great point asking if the private property owner owns the water over the stream bed, does he also own the water that evaporated from it? In 1983, the Colorado AG determined that floating was not trespassing. Below is where that came from. It appears there have been and are attempts to correct the 1979 decision. Take it for what it's worth.
" 2. State Test of Navigability
Much of the conflict over the right of passage stems from the arid nature of the region, particularly the eastern slope of the state where 80% of the state?s population lives. While 75% of the surface water fall on the western slope of the state, eastern municipal and agricultural water users divert, through a complex maze of dams, reservoirs and tunnels, more than 50% of that water to the eastern slope. Colorado, like most western states, follows the doctrine of prior appropriation: a water user who first appropriates water for a beneficial use has superior rights to the water than any user who came later in time. The right to use the appropriated water is a "perfected property right" upon application to beneficial use." Colorado's constitution states that "the water of every natural stream, not heretofore appropriated, within the State of Colorado, is hereby declared to be the property of the public, and the same is dedicated to the use of the People of the State, subject to appropriation as hereinafter provided." Similar provisions in other states have been construed to grant the public an easement to use the surface. Colorado specifically and unequivocally rejected such a public trust doctrine in 1979.
Colorado?s state test of navigability differs little from the federal test of navigability. As applied, no streams in the state are navigable under the federal test.
In People v. Emmert, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the recreational boating test of navigability. The court held that a landowner that owns the streambed owns the space above the streambed as well; therefore, any use of the water above privately owned land constitutes trespass. The Colorado legislature reacted to the facts of the Emmert case by adding a definition of "premises" to the second and third degree criminal trespass statute. Where trespass to premises had been silent about rivers and streams, the amendment defined "premises" narrowly to include the "stream banks and beds of any non-navigable fresh water streams flowing through . . ." private property. The statutory definition of "premises" includes neither contact with the water, nor the space above privately owned streambeds.
In a 1983 opinion, the Colorado Attorney General concluded that trespass does not include floating on the surface of any waters where the beds are privately owned. This opinion, coupled with the according statute, removes any possibility of criminal liability for passage through private property. Contact, however, with privately owned stream beds, including rocks protruding from the stream, or stream banks, remains technically illegal. In practice, however, county sheriffs and local police continue to threaten prosecution for citizen initiated complaints (and even issue summonses upon the landowner?s signature). District attorneys responsible for the actual prosecution, however, have dismissed two cases against four boaters on the Cheeseman Gorge section of the South Platte River when educated about the limited scope of the Emmert decision, the new definition of "premises," and the attorney general?s opinion. "
JL, correct, but the AG opinion can't supercede Supreme Court precedent. He can only offer an opinion to LEOs. In CO, it is generally accepted by property owners of the streambed that floating is allowed as long as no paddle, anchor or foot touches the bottom, even if not federally deemed "navigable".
In WY, on the North Platte, a landowner used to have telephoto lens cameras set up to watch floating fishermen. He would email photos to the Sheriff each day, and at the Lusby takeout deputies would wait for fishermen to land, then cite those that anchored, got out to poop, waded, etc.. I've watched it happen numerous times. He leased out the fishing rights through that section. WY F&G finally resolved the problem by acquiring the section of river. But for many years, it was a big dispute and a bunch of trespassing tickets were written.
The WY F&G are still enforcing the trespassing laws on the N.Platte. I watched one boat owner get ticketed for anchoring on private when I was there last spring. Even worse are the guides who feel it's their duty to prevent fishing the shallow redds, when in fact they do the same thing only over deeper redds.
I used to love fishing that river 20 years ago, but it's turned into a bit of a sh!t show lately.
Not having access to public land is criminal. Needs to be changed. Would alleviate so many over crowding issues at trailheads and entrance points along with disturbing game better. Thanks for the link Lou.
An equally bad problem in the west is the thousands of miles of fence lines that are no where close to the actual boundaries of the private properties. I know Lou, and many others here, have encountered that in numerous places. Last year 2 rifles hunters alerted the game warden that I was trespassing, when I was actually crossing a fence that was over a mile inside of the BLM. When I showed the warden where I was crossing, then asked him why the fence line was so far off, he just shrugged and said "that's the way it's been ever since I've been managing this area."
Wytex, I do understand the WYOGA influence in that law, but have always wondered why WY BHA has not taken up the cause to overturn it, since BHA is all about "public access". Maybe because it doesn't affect them, only everyone else in the country? Is WY BHA "greedy"?
This corner crossing non-controversy is only a controversy for those who want to hunt across the landlocked corners. Nobody else cares. The general outdoor public has more accessible public land than anyone can enjoy in a thousand lifetimes. It's only "greedy" hunters who want more. That's partly why it has never gained much traction with lawmakers, because hunters make up such a small part of the voting constituency.
I know this has been suggested. But why not lobby all other states with reciprocal law enforcement agreements with WY, to change their respective states law to say WY residents can not use any wilderness without a Guide, Alaska, NM, Montana, etc
I know this has been suggested. But why not lobby all other states with reciprocal law enforcement agreements with WY, to change their respective states law to say WY residents can not use any wilderness without a Guide, Alaska, NM, Montana, etc
Lou, the game warden who checked on me last year complimented me for doing my research and ignoring the fence lines. In that particular case, I was hunting as large chunk of BLM that butted up to an equally large private ranch. There was no fence line indicating the boundary between public and private. Instead the ranch had place fences around the entire perimeter of the public and the private, giving the appearance that it was all private. I was kinda shocked to find out that fence had been there for years and nothing has ever been done about it.
“The solution is simple in my mind. Create public easements to public land for legal purposes. But maybe I have a simple mind.”
It’s really that simple. And it’s called “eminent domain”. For the good of the public, the BLM/National forest pays the landowner for the land that is “taken”. Just make it a foot and horse gate only, no 4 wheelers.
But too much money involved by the landowners to ever get that done. Remember the golden rule: them with the gold makes the rules. :-)
Elk Mountain Ranch left us a phone number. I wonder if a few thousand people between bowsite and rokslide calling them leaving voicemails that they supported corner hopping would help… If nothing else it would probably fill up their inbox and annoy the shit out of them! Might keep them from posting their phone number everywhere as well!
Matt, I would think that that fence would be a GREAT project to the likes of the Rocky Mountain Elf Foundation. After all, they toot their horn all the time (AND RIGHTFULLY SO!) about taking down fences that cause issues with the wildlife!
They should organize a bunch of volunteers and take it down "property line to property line" ----- boy that would piss off the land owners. And then post how they opened up several "hundred acres (??)" of public property.
Grasshopper, I'm not so sure the charges will be dropped. This is a political hot potato with a lot of visibility, and would basically open up Elk Mountain ranch and the other corner-corner properties in Carbon County to a free-for-all during hunting season. Whoever drops the charges or rules against Wyoming ranchers in favor of four nonresidents would likely need to move out of the county.
That said, no matter what the ruling, it won't have any far reaching ramifications either way, as some hope. My sheriff here will still ticket corner-crossers if the landowner insists on pressing charges. Whatever happens in Carbon County WY will only hold weight in Carbon County unless this is upheld by an appeals court. This is such gigantic issue across all of the West that it may end up in SCOTUS. It will take a hell of a lot more than $58,000 to fight it all the way, and western ranch owners with huge $$ at stake have that much in their couch cushions.
I'll give my Sheriff's office a call tomorrow to see if any of the tickets they wrote during the last couple hunting seasons on one particular big ranch actually led to fines (I live in "checkerboard country").
I like the opinion that corner crossing is legit and as there are several references to water use, I like Alaska's take. They say, or said when I lived there that public access in a stream is up to the high water line. More than once had guns pointed by land owners while fly fishing for Grayling while wading a stream.
Lou, I get your point, but at some point a government official will lose interest in devoting resources to this case. If the hunters win their first level court case, I would assume in county court, I doubt it goes to appeal. If the hunters lose, the appeals process is in their hands and money is the deciding factor.
I believe wyoming game and fish has previously stated they aren't wasting their time on these types of cases. Do local county officials have the free time to waste resources?Maybe, if the rancher is local guy with links to the county. If the rancher is an out of stater, unlikely unless he is contributing some coin to the party.
Judges like it when things get figured out before any court date.
I could see why a state would be reluctant to get involved in federal land corner hopping? IMO...the federal courts will need to get this figured out and maybe the states will follow suit for state land corner hopping?
Likewise....the national hunting/shooting orgs should be getting involved for their members who want something done. Once again....where is the RMEF, DU, TU, MF, NRA, B&C, P&Y, etc?????
Game and Fish departments don't get involved because they can't prove "intent to hunt" on the private property being "crossed". CPW folks told me this. That's why it's up to the Sheriff to cite for trespassing. Anecdotally there have been cases where citations for corner-crossing have been dismissed by courts (reported on internet forums, so it must be true!) If that is the case, it is a local precedent only. Which is what this would be too.
I think people (and GoFundMe contributors) are making too much of this. Even if it is tossed out of Carbon County court, it will have no bearing on Albany County, Larimer County, etc.. Somewhere, a higher court will need to determine if this is, indeed, trespassing by crossing airspace already established by USSC.
Just talked with my County Sheriff. They are citing hunters who corner cross if the property owner wants to pursue it. The specific place where I want to cross is one of those, he said, and cites several hunters every year. He said there is a state statute prohibiting corner crossing, but all I can find is a reference to the USSC Leo ruling as the justification. I have a call in to the DA office to find out if any have stuck in court.
Also learned that both the WY and MT legislatures tried to pass a law making corner crossing legal. Both failed. Which is a de facto acknowledgement that it is illegal, if they tried and failed to legalize it.
It’s all about money in the ranchers pocket. If we have access, they can’t change big bucks to client they take hunting there.
Wonder if that is another avenue that can be explored. Private landowners have the right to “guide” hunters on their personal land but not on public without an outfitters license. I suspect very few of them have that. So illegal guiding?
I just had a lengthy conversation with an attorney who specializes in defending wildlife violations. He said corner crossing trespass is ALWAYS upheld in CO courts unless there are extenuating circumstances (lost, etc..). He also said even if CPW isn't involved with the initial citation, if the corner crosser hunts, Title 33 violations also automatically apply because anything a hunter does after trespassing also becomes a violation, even if on public land he reached by trespassing. So it becomes a 20 point violation and loss of hunting and fishing across the country for a year, along with the trespassing charge and fines.
He is currently defending a corner hopper who killed a 6 point bull on the National Forest. The guy is facing "Samson Law" charges with possible $12,500 fine and loss of privileges for five years, along with the trespassing.
He believes the Elk Mountain defendants want to be found guilty by the lower court so they can appeal it all the way to the WY Supreme Court and get a definitive ruling that would apply across WY. The GoFundMe money could pay for the expensive appeals. Then landowners could appeal that to the USSC if they can afford it.
Will be very interesting to see how this shakes out.
I don't know about any of you, but....the corner crossing issue has frustrated me many times, but not enough to spend years in litigation over. I admire these guys willingness to take one for the team, so to speak, and test the corner crossing laws, but I can't help thinking they are pissing up a rope.