Judge: Natrona County Can’t Stop Landowner From Blocking Off Road

A judge ruled Thursday that Natrona County cannot stop a local ranch family from closing off parts of County Road 505. The judge said the county doesn’t own the road and they cannot block the landowners from gating it.

Dale Killingbeck

June 27, 20244 min read

A BLM sign sits beside Circle Drive or County Road 505 south of Casper Mountain asking for input about BLM trails on its lands.
A BLM sign sits beside Circle Drive or County Road 505 south of Casper Mountain asking for input about BLM trails on its lands. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

CASPER — A Natrona County judge ruled against Natrona County in its attempt to keep private landowners from blocking off a road on their property even though the county has maintained it for years.

County commissioners sued over a threat to close off County Road 505 to the public because of people damaging the landowner’s private property. But the road also is a vital access for the south side of Casper Mountain and would cause a hardship to close, the county argued.

Whether the county likes it or not, it doesn’t own the road and made inconsistent arguments to block the landowners from gating it, the judge ruled in Thursday’s denial of an injunction against the ranch family from blocking of CR 505.

The county’s request for the injunction was filed June 17 after letter from Woodbury Land and Livestock LLC, and Walt and Stephanie Woodbury dated June 14 advising the county they were going to block the road on a portion of their property come June 20.

The Woodbury’s ultimately haven’t yet made good on their threat to block off parts of CR 505.

Attorneys for the Woodburys and the county sparred Wednesday in arguments before Natrona County District Court Judge Joshua Eames, including that the family would still allow other private landowners and emergency vehicles on the road.

In the end, the judge also ruled that the landowners showed they don’t intend to block the road in a way that would prevent people from accessing Muddy Mountain and its camping area from the north side of Casper Mountain.

No Complaint

Judge Eames noted in his ruling that the county has never filed a complaint on the issue only the request for a preliminary injunction. On Wednesday in court, he said he had no affidavits from private property owners alleging potential injury or other evidence showing harm.

“To date, plaintiff has not filed a complaint alleging any cause of action,” the judge wrote. “Because Plaintiff has not, to date and over a week after it filed its motion, filed a complaint with any cause of action, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has not properly invoked” the laws cited in the county’s motion.

The judge also ruled that the county failed to establish the necessary legal elements for a preliminary injunction.

“Even if Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction was properly brought … Plaintiff has failed to meet its burden of showing that a preliminary injunction is necessary under the circumstances,” Judge Eames wrote.

An injunction should be used in the “rarest of cases,” he said.

Evidence in court documents presented to the judge show the Woodburys and their attorney John Masterson met with county attorneys and the county commission Chairman Peter Nicolaysen on May 23 where the couple proposed putting gates across the road and allowing emergency access.

The county did not respond to the suggestion or offer an alternative, so they wrote the letter threatening to do it.

County Maintained

County officials argued that Natrona County has used and maintained the road for years and that the public uses it to access BLM land and a campground. Also, County Road 505 is on maps and is marked with county signage.

Without proof of ownership of the road, however, the county can’t just claim it because of what it’s done on it in the past, the judge ruled.

The county continues to search for documents proving ownership. In the meantime, the county commission recently began legal efforts to establish the road as a county road through “prescription” or “adverse possession.”

That’s another problem the judge had with the request for an injunction; that the county is claiming both that it owns the road, and also that it intends to establish ownership.

The Woodburys, who have three parcels of land that touch the road, have proposed putting two gates across the road and allowing EMS, private property owners and individual use during an emergency through a call to 911 dispatchers who would have the access codes to open the gates.

They allege trespassing, littering, and other issues that impede their cattle ranching and violate their private property are occurring because of the road.

The road also is bordered along its 13.5 mile stretch from the top of Casper Mountain to State Highway 487 by state and BLM land.

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Dale Killingbeck


Killingbeck is glad to be back in journalism after working for 18 years in corporate communications with a health system in northern Michigan. He spent the previous 16 years working for newspapers in western Michigan in various roles.