Across the nation ambiguities around the legality of accessing public lands at adjoining corners (popularly known as 'corner crossing') prevent sportsmen and women from setting foot on significant portions of our public estate. Access to quality habitat on public lands is critical to sustaining our hunting heritage. As such, it's imperative that hunters fight for access and defend our public trust when necessary.
In the 2021 hunting season, four hunters were cited for criminal trespass in Carbon County, Wyoming for corner crossing. They pleaded "not guilty" and were acquitted of all criminal charges in April of 2022. However, the landowner filed a lawsuit against the hunters for $7 million in civil litigation. Corner crossing is a legal grey area that stems from the public's desire to access their public land by stepping from one corner of public to another. We believe this act does not violate law or cause any negative impacts to private landowners and their use of their property. These four hunters took every precaution to make certain private land was not touched. It is crucial public land hunters band together to fight for access to cornered public land!
This all came to a head in spring 2023. On May 26, the District Court of Wyoming found it legal to cross through private airspace when stepping from public land to public land over a shared public/private corner. The judge summarized and analyzed relevant court precedent to conclude that “corner crossing on foot in the checkerboard pattern of land ownership, without physically, contacting private land and, without causing damage to private property does not constitute an unlawful trespass," according to WyoFile's story on the decision.
While this decision is currently being appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, this is a massive win for public access in Wyoming, and potentially for the 8.3 million acres of checkerboard patterned public lands across the west. But the battle isn't over. At BHA, we are continually working towards making sure our access to public lands remains open to all people, and BHA has submitted amicus briefs in both the district court case and the tenth circuit appeal.
"The value of public resources that remain land-locked behind corners across the West cannot be understated nor ignored," said Patrick Berry, BHA's President and CEO. "BHA is proud to represent the rights of everyday Americans who hold equal title to hunt, fish, explore, and enjoy land owned by all of us without fear of retaliation."
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