kat smith- Wyoming's Corner Crossing - The Inside Spread

Category: Policy

In a recent legal victory that has sent ripples across the United States, a group of hunters won a pivotal case in Wyoming, sets in motion a precedent for public land access. The District Court of Wyoming ruled in favor of four hunters, collectively known as the “Missouri Four,” in a case that has been dubbed the “Wyoming Corner Crossing case“. This ruling could significantly shape the future of public land access for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, signaling a potential shift in how private and public land boundaries are navigated.

Wyoming’s Corner Crossing – The Missouri Four

The Wyoming’s Corner Crossing case emerged from a hunting trips in 2020 and 2021, where Phillip Yeomans, Bradly Cape, John Slowensky, and Zachary Smith, used a small stepladder to cross from one parcel of public land to another. The term ‘corner crossing’ refers to the act of transitioning from one corner of public land to another, crossing diagonally between corners of private land, without ever setting foot on private property.

Elk Mountain Ranch

Their chosen route led them across a corner of the Elk Mountain Ranch, held by Iron Bar Holdings. The company, managed by billionaire Fred Eshelman, brought criminal trespass charges against the hunters and filed a civil suit in federal court, claiming the trespassing diminished the ranch’s property value and caused more than $7 million in damages

Public Land Ruling

In a decisive ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl declared that as long as a person corner crosses on foot within the checkerboard layout of public land without touching the surface of private land or damaging private property, there is no liability for trespass. This ruling is a significant win for public land hunters, particularly in Wyoming, who have long sought clarity on the matter.

Missouri Four Victory

The victory of the Missouri Four is seen as a triumph for all public land hunters. As Brad Cape, one of the hunters, put it: “It’s a win for the common outdoors person. It’s a big deal”. This sentiment is echoed across the hunting community, and the ruling has been hailed as a step towards preserving the rights of hunters and the public to access public lands.

Step in the Right Direction

However, it’s important to note that while this ruling is a significant step forward, it does not immediately legalize corner crossing in every state. The court was careful to put this ruling in the context of the case, not a national context. As attorney Eric Hanson, who represented Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in this litigation, explains, “This has to work its way up the chain of appeals before it becomes more binding”

Despite this cautionary note, the ruling has been celebrated by the public land hunters of Wyoming and across the country. It represents a strong endorsement of the principle that as long as you don’t touch private land or cause harm to private land in some way, you have the right to cross corner-to-corner of public lands.

The Wyoming’s Corner Crossing case is a landmark decision in the ongoing dialogue about public land access and private property rights. It brings into focus the intricate dance between the rights of landowners and the rights of the public to access lands held in trust for their use.

Wyoming’s Corner Crossing a Test in Waiting

As we wait to see how this ruling may impact laws across the country, one thing is certain: The Wyoming Corner Crossing case has shifted the narrative on public land access, raising hope for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts across the nation.

While the path forward may still be uncertain, this case serves as a reminder that, when it comes to accessing the great outdoors, every step counts. The determination of the Missouri Four and their victory is a testament to the importance of standing up for access rights to public lands.

The Right to Access Public Lands

The Missouri Four’s case is a story of endurance and belief in the right to access public lands. Their victory symbolizes the spirit of the hunting community, a collective that values not only the pursuit of the game but also the freedom to roam the vast public lands of our nation. Their win in the courtroom is more than just a personal victory; it is a win for all hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who depend on public lands for their pursuits.

As we celebrate this significant victory, it is also a moment to reflect on the ongoing challenges and responsibilities that come with it. This ruling is a critical first step towards broader legal recognition of corner crossing. Still, it also underscores the importance of respecting private property and ensuring that public land access does not come at the cost of private landowners’ rights.

Public land hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and all who care about the future of public land access should take heart from this ruling. It serves as a powerful reminder that the rights to access public lands are worth defending.

The Wyoming’s Corner Crossing case represents a significant milestone in the fight for public land access. It highlights the importance of continued advocacy for the rights of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. The ruling does not mark the end of the journey but instead a hopeful beginning, illuminating the path towards greater public land access in the United States.

In the words of Eric Hanson, “Today was a win for the people, both in Wyoming and across the country.” Let us honor this victory by continuing to champion responsible access to our nation’s public lands, ensuring that the legacy of the great outdoors is preserved for generations to come.

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