Hunters and anglers are closely watching legal proceedings in Carbon County, Wyoming, where four non-resident elk hunters “corner crossed” at a surveyed corner where two parcels of public land join and who, as a result, were charged with criminal – and later civil – trespass. The hunters had accessed the public lands in question for two consecutive years, utilizing a stepladder in the second year to cross from one public parcel to another.
For more background on corner crossing, check out this video from Randy Newberg:
The hunters involved in this case were harassed by a landowner then hit with both criminal and civil trespass charges initiated by the adjacent landowner. Soon after learning of the case, the Wyoming chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers backed the hunters involved by launching a legal defense fund, through which more than $70,000 has been raised to date, to help defray any legal (i.e., attorney) fees incurred by the hunters. (Any unused funds raised through this campaign will be contributed directly to Wyoming’s popular Access Yes program, which Wyoming BHA has contributed chapter funds to for many years.)
Wyoming BHA Board Member Buzz Hettick reiterated the chapter’s support of private landowner rights, as well as legal public access.
“BHA absolutely respects the rights of private landowners to determine how hunting and fishing access on property they own is managed. However, those property rights should in no way be allowed to infringe upon the public’s right to hunt and fish on our public lands and waters. We strongly stand behind the hunters involved in this corner crossing case. We have supported – and will continue to financially support – programs like Access Yes, which help incentivize public access on private lands.”
While state law has left the corner crossing issue in a legal gray area – as captured in the opinion of Pat Crank, former Wyoming attorney general, in 2004 – attorneys representing the hunters involved have requested the civil case be moved to federal court, where legal arguments around the relevance of the Federal Unlawful Enclosures Act (1885) are likely to be made. This law was successfully used by advocates to provide for free passage between public parcels within this checkerboarded region.
Wyoming BHA Board Member Pete Kassab underscored the importance of hunters and anglers advocating for access to public lands and waters.
“We’d certainly prefer to work on public land access issues in a more collaborative manner; however, in this case, the public’s hand has been forced to act. Someone needs to stand up for the public land hunter, and we believe it’s our turn to do just that. We call on hunters and anglers across North America to join us.”
Interested in getting involved? Here are three ways you can help:
- Sign BHA’s Corner Crossing Pledge. By signing this pledge, you will automatically receive BHA’s email newsletter, through which you can stay up to speed on a range of public hunting and fishing access issues.
- Donate to the Corner Crossing Legal Defense Fund.
- Become a BHA member and speak up for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.