In the American West, especially in the wide open spaces, we have a unique legal issue.
Picture a checkerboard. As you move any checker from one black space diagonally to another, the outer edges of the checker piece, as it is in the air, pass over the corners of the white spaces.
Well, much of the American West is divided into property lines that are shaped like a checkerboard, meeting at four-corner intersections.
And in many cases, two of those corners are public lands while the other two are private lands.
So in many cases, the “white” squares are public and the “black” squares are private.
If you’re on public land — say you’re a hunter or hiker — and you want to cross diagonally onto the next piece of public land, your body briefly crosses the air space over the two adjacent squares of private land. This is called “corner crossing.”
“Big deal,” you might say. “I never set foot on the private land and I was in its air space for one second.”
But some of the private land owners consider corner crossing to trespassing. And they have sued.
A Wyoming federal judge recently ruled that corner crossing is not trespassing. But in his ruling he warned corner crossers not to take advantage and push the limits of his ruling.
A wealthy rancher sued four hunters who corner-crossed the edge of his ranch. The rancher has lost.
Remember this the next time you play checkers: there is real-life drama over the same movements.
From Oil City News:
Federal Judge Scott Skavdahl refuses to grant a stay in ranch owner’s failed civil suit but issues a warning about the limits of his decision.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Monday refused to temporarily suspend his decision that corner crossing is not trespassing, denying a request by Elk Mountain Ranch owner Fred Eshelman.
Eshelman sought to suspend the judge’s ruling while the pharmaceutical magnate challenges it in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Eshelman sued four Missouri hunters for trespassing after they traveled through the airspace above his ranch in 2020 and 2021.