Hunting group asks to join Corner Crossing lawsuit in support of Missouri hunters

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A new group is trying to join the lawsuit against four Missouri hunters accused of violating the airspace of a private Carbon County ranch by moving from one piece of public land to another.

The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers organization on Friday asked U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl for permission to support hunters sued by North Carolina businessman Fred Eschelman with a “friend of the court” brief.

These briefs offer arguments in support of one side or another of a lawsuit and are offered by a third party who has no direct connection to the case. Permission must be given by a judge before BHA can file its 11-page brief with the court.

In the brief it wants to submit, BHA argues that to maintain access to public lands, certain provisions must be made to allow people to cross the common corners between private and public property.

“The corners where federal public land intersects with private land are the keys to unlocking access to millions of acres of land owned by every American,” BHA said in the brief. “This case illustrates the national interest in deciding the fate of these millions of acres of landlocked public land.”

The lawsuit by Iron Bar Ranch is the latest lawsuit facing the four hunters – Bradley Cape, Philip Yeomans, Zachary Smith and John Sloensky – of three suits stemming from allegations of trespassing on private property during the move from one plot of public land to another.

First, Carbon County officials charged them with criminal trespassing in connection with a 2021 incident at the Iron Bar Ranch. A six-member jury declared the hunters innocent of the charges in April.

Another set of charges were filed in circuit court against Cape, Yeomans and Smith charging them with criminal trespassing in a 2020 incident at the Elk Mountain Ranch, but the Carbon County prosecutor requested Friday that these charges be dismissed.

Iron Bar and the Elk Mountain Ranch are both owned by Eschelman.

Iron Bar Ranch, in a separate action, sued the four hunters, alleging that by using a ladder-like device to climb from one piece of public land to another, they violated Iron Bar airspace. . This lawsuit is the action that Backcountry Hunters and Anglers wants to join.

Wyoming has a “checkerboard” land pattern that mixes public and private land. These plots often share common corners, with one public lot lying diagonally to another. To go from one public plot to another, you have to step over or climb the bends.

In its brief, BHA argued that by preventing people from accessing public land, private landowners can essentially control access to all public land.

“While a private landowner can deny access to public land by mere claims of violation of state law based on a person’s momentary passage through the common and mixed airspace of private lands and public land, its claim essentially erases public rights to that public land and effectively grants the landowner dominion over public land that he neither owns nor has paid for,” BHA wrote in his brief. .

“A private landowner holding half the ownership of a corner should not have veto power over the access of the owner of the other half of the corner – namely the government and, by extension, its citizens”, added BHA.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had created a “GoFundMe” campaign to raise funds for hunter advocacy.

The federal case could ultimately set a precedent, Cape attorney Katye Ames told the Cowboy State Daily last week, and could end criminal prosecutions in similar trespassing cases.

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