For the last couple of years, corner crossing has been a hot topic causing a lot of concern with farmers and ranchers in Wyoming. The latest judge’s ruling has not helped this concern.
Corner crossing is where someone can cross from one public land section to another public land section without touching private land corners. We have always considered this action illegal, until recently a court case came before the District Court of Wyoming.
The case came about after some out-of-state hunters were corner crossing on checkerboard lands in the Elk Mountain area. The hunters were caught by the ranch manager, and legal action was initiated by the owner. It was appealed in the District Court of Wyoming and ruled on last May.
Now, this complicated case may be appealed again to the 10th Court of Appeals and move up to the Supreme Court, which may take some time.
After the Bureau of Land Management initially said they encourage corner crossing, they quickly redacted their statement and decided not to encourage it, since it is so controversial.
Some hunting organizations are suggesting hunters avoid corner crossing at this time so as not to tilt the ruling of the district court. So, what to do?
Since none of us have any control over the courts or appeals, hunters, sportsmen and landowners, including myself, feel this leaves an opening or an opportunity for all parties to engage in a conversation about issues of access, private land rights and trespass.
These all are big issues at the moment since more and more hunters are looking for places to hunt, so having public land access and a reference to show where they can or can’t hunt is crucial.
Landowners are concerned about the erosion of private land rights, overpopulation of elk herds and enforcement of the one to two percent of hunters who disregard the law and trespass or damage private lands.
Landowners have to either close all hunting or lease to an outfitter to protect their private property from the one to two percent of bad apples.
I feel what we have now is a conflict but it could be a partnership. Landowners provide wildlife habitat, and they want hunters to keep numbers of wildlife down to reasonable populations.
Landowners and local Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel should visit about their wants and needs. Our relationship shouldn’t be competitive – it should be a working relationship.
If one side doesn’t understand the other’s needs, then mistrust rules. It seems these days, someone is always wanting something from landowners, but they have no chips on the table to trade.
For landowners and hunters, the worst thing that could happen now is to pass more laws or have more court cases. These potential conflicts shouldn’t pit us against each other, there is too much at stake here.
We need to start talking among reasonable people and disregard those who draw lines in the sand. These issues are far too important to let the courts and new laws dictate our rights.
Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available in print and online. To subscribe, visit wylr.net.