New bill broadens "corner crossing" definition


Screenshot showing a corner crossing example of two public land parcels with private land near it from goHUNT Maps.

As hunters await the fate of four individuals charged with trespassing after “corner crossing” from public land over a four-way shared corner with private land, lawmakers are already one step ahead. On Monday, HB0103 – Prohibit travel across private land for hunting purposes was filed in an effort to “broaden the definition of hunter trespass,” according to WyoFile.

As goHUNT previously reported, last October, four Missouri hunters used a ladder to cross from a section of public U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Wyoming to another. This is known as corner crossing and often falls in the legal gray area. However, because Brad Cape, Phillip Yoemans, John Slowensky and Zach Smith technically stepped over an area where two of the corners were public land and the other two were private land, the four men now face criminal trespass charges in Carbon County.

Earlier this month, the attorney for one of the four hunters requested that the judge dismiss the count against his client and the three other defendants, stating that, “Federal law prohibits any person or group of persons from preventing Mr. Yeomans, his friends, or others from freely passing through public lands. Consequently, private landowners cannot prevent or obstruct free passage from one section of public land to another by claiming that the common corner where two private sections of land and two public sections of land meet is their exclusive property, land, or premises.

“Accordingly, the State of Wyoming cannot prosecute Mr. Yeomans or any other person for criminal trespass when Mr. Yeomans or another person travels from one section of public land to another section of public land at a common corner with two sections of private land,” according to the motion filed.

HB0103 would tweak that legal gray space the defendant’s attorney is using and clearly change how trespassing is defined when it comes to corner crossing. Specifically, the bill would amend the definition of hunter trespass that currently states that “no person shall enter upon” private property, according to WyoFile. The amended language would state “no person shall enter upon or travel through” private property without permission. 

Sponsors of the bill include Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo), Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), Aaron Clausen (R-Douglas), Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull), Mike Greear (R-Worland), Chip Neiman (R-Hulett), Ember Oakley (R-Riverton) and Tom Walters (R-Casper) plus Sens. Brian Boner (R-Douglas), Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) and Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan).

Wyoming Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have been involved with raising legal defense funds and spreading the message about the corner crossing case. However, because of this involvement, the president of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, Peter Dube, “withdrew a promised big game license” that would go to WBHA because he didn’t want to pick sides in the matter.  That means that WBHA loses out on auctioning off the coveted commissioner’s tag and the money generated from the auction. 

“I’m disappointed,” said Buzz Hettick, chairman of WBHA. “We had projects that we were going to fund with that money that will no longer be funded this year.” 

Stay tuned to goHUNT for further details.

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