Dennis Sun: Private Land Rights

Ag columnist Dennis Sun writes, "Most every person I have caught trespassing is also a terrible liar – their excuses are some of the tallest tales one will ever hear."

Dennis Sun

September 09, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

As Americans, we all have rights we are proud of and hold dearly – the right to vote, the right to free speech and among many others, the right to own property.

In addition to owning property, property holders have private land rights. However, in the last few years, I feel our private land rights have eroded significantly, not only by people, but by the government and its agencies.

When discussing private land rights, some people only think of urban house lots or other land and buildings in an urban area. They don’t believe ranch, farm, small acreage or private recreation lands have the same rights as a house or lots in an urban area.

In past years, trespassing on private lands has become a larger issue in rural areas as people disrespect rural private lands, especially during hunting season.

To be technically correct, a vast majority of hunters respect this law and don’t trespass. But, unlawful trespassing is on the rise in rural areas. I think it has to do with people viewing the vast amount of raw lands in the country and thinking it is okay to use them, or they mistakenly take them for public lands.

In some areas of the West, public and private lands are intermingled, and without a Global Position System (GPS), people have no idea whose land they are on, especially on checkerboard lands close to railroads.

While many wouldn’t think of trespassing in someone’s yard in an urban setting, some think nothing of trespassing on a farmer or rancher’s backyard – farmers and ranchers just have larger yards.

Few realize the state’s trespassing laws equally apply to both urban and rural areas. If corner-crossing becomes legal, it will be legal in both urban and rural lands.

Most every person I have caught trespassing is also a terrible liar – their excuses are some of the tallest tales one will ever hear.

Rural areas are also bearing the brunt on infringements by government and their agencies, the Endangered Species Act is a prime example of this. With some species, farmers and ranchers were told what they could and couldn’t do on their private lands.

What should have been voluntary actions, are now forced ones. The reasons for some of these changes were caused by a lawsuit and a friendly judge.

Hunters now want to access private lands to get to public lands, but without permission it is illegal.

As ranchers and farmers, we are in the same position as boundaries were formed many years ago. These boundaries harm both hunters and private landowners today. Now, hunters want the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to buy access for them because they don’t want to have any of their chips on the table.

It all boils down to respect – respect for other’s property, both in urban and rural areas. We hope this fall, hunters will take the time to see where the boundaries of private lands and public lands are.

Just because they have a side-by-side or 4-wheeler, it doesn’t give them the right to go everywhere they want. If a landowner gives access to enter private lands, don’t exit those lands a different way. 

Remember, we all have backyards, some are larger than others, but size doesn’t make any difference under the private lands laws.

Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit

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Dennis Sun

Agriculture Columnist