Corner Crossing Case Heard in 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

DENVER, CO. — The corner crossing legal fight continued Tuesday, May 14 as oral arguments for the legal case were held at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.  

The corner crossing case involves four Missouri hunters who used a ladder to "corner cross" from one public land parcel to another without setting foot on private land, navigating the checkerboard layout common in the West. This week’s legal proceedings continued to focus on key issues centered on public land access rights and private property boundaries. 

The oral arguments were held before the three-judge panel of Senior Judge David M. Ebel, Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich, Judge Nancy Louise Moritz with both hunters’ and landowner’s lawyers allotted 15 minutes to present their case and answer questions from the judges. 

Ryan Semerad, the lawyer for the hunters, argued that they were within their rights under the Unlawful Enclosures Act, which prohibits private landowners from blocking access to public lands. In contrast, the lawyers for Elk Mountain Ranch argued that the hunters trespassed into his property's airspace, thus diminishing the value of the private land. U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl previously ruled in favor of the hunters, stating that corner crossing without touching private land did not constitute trespass.  

Additionally, BHA and other conservation groups filed amicus briefs supporting the hunters, emphasizing the importance of maintaining public access to millions of acres of federal land. These groups argue that a ruling against corner crossing would effectively privatize public lands, limiting access to only those wealthy enough to own adjacent properties. 

The oral arguments highlighted these points, with both sides presenting their cases on the legality and implications of corner crossing. The judges on the panel peppered both lawyers with a variety of well thought out and researched questions that indicated an interest in the greater implications of this case. The decision of the 10th Circuit will have significant ramifications for public land access across the West​.  

We expect that the panel will issue a ruling on this case within three months, at which point BHA will be leading the charge on the next steps for this critical issue. 

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About Bryan Jones

Chapter Coordinator (CO/WY)

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