Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Environmental, conservation groups argue in favor of corner crossing in Wyoming case

A hunter searches for deer in a foggy field near Mount Spokane in November 2019.   (Eli Francovich/The Spokesman-Review)
By Brett French Billings Gazette

BILLINGS – Calling a Wyoming landowner’s lawsuit “unlawful and unjust” in an attempt to prosecute four hunters who crossed onto public land where the corners meet, four environmental and conservation groups filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit earlier this month.

The groups include Great Old Broads for Wilderness, GreenLatinos, Sierra Club and Western Watersheds Project.

The brief is the latest in a string of actions related to the lawsuit filed by Fred Eshelman and his appeal of an April decision by U.S. Chief District Judge Scott Skavdahl. Skavdahl ruled that four Missouri hunters did not trespass when they crossed in 2020 and 2021 from Bureau of Land Management property at the corners where the public lands meet. The men used a ladder to step from one corner to the other at a survey marker.

The groups are the latest to step into the hotly contested lawsuit – Iron Bar Holdings, LLC v Bradly Cape, et al – that could affect access to 8.3 million acres of public land in the West. In November, the United Property Owners of Montana filed an amicus brief with the court in favor of Eshelman’s arguments.

Taking the opposite side of the argument is Thomas Delehanty, an attorney for Earthjustice.

Delehanty wrote in his brief, “Iron Bar’s lawsuit aims to exclude the public from public land near Elk Mountain so that its multimillionaire owner can have it for himself. This maneuver is part of a broader pattern across the West of private landowners attempting to control public land access via threats, force, and other unlawful methods.”

Eshelman’s ranch contains 6,000 acres of public land. In 2022, a jury found the hunters not guilty of criminal trespass, WyoFile reported. Eshelman, a North Carolina pharmaceutical magnate, then filed a civil suit against the four men which led to Skavdahl’s ruling last May.

“A holding for Iron Bar would proclaim that private property rights to a few inches of airspace trump even the most reasonable way of passage to millions of acres of public land owned by all,” Delehanty argued.

Although the issue of corner crossing has largely resonated with hunters, the filing demonstrates other nonconsumptive public lands users are also concerned about the outcome of the court case.

“The public – not just hunters but everyone – should have the same right of reasonable access to their lands as private landowners have,” said Erik Molvar, executive director with Western Watersheds Project, in a press release.

Sara Husby, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, said a finding in favor of Eshelman “would amount to the de facto privatization of public land that is rightfully held in trust for the benefit of all Americans.”

The groups’ brief can be read online at: