While lobbying two law officers to cite four hunters with trespass for corner crossing last fall in Carbon County, Elk Mountain Ranch Manager Steve Grende asked the lawmen, who were reluctant to charge the hunters, how much their supervisors knew about his boss.

“Do they realize how much money my boss has … and property?” Grende said.

A sheriff’s deputy eventually charged the four hunters with criminal trespass, setting off a cascade of legal activity over corner crossing — stepping from one parcel of public land to another at a four-way, checkerboard-pattern intersection with two private parcels. The hunters assert they never set foot on private ground.

The hunters have pleaded not guilty and public-land access advocates have donated almost $70,000 toward their defense. Grende’s boss, through his holding company, filed a related civil suit seeking legal fees and potentially other damages, and the hunters’ attorneys have sought dismissal of the criminal charges. The deputy county prosecutor asked a judge to add alternative trespass counts as the whole legal affair has blossomed into a closely watched test case about access to, and exclusion from, some 1.6 million acres of public land across the West.

Nothing in the flurry of developments, however, has answered Grende’s question.

But a WyoFile investigation shows that in addition to owning some 23,277 acres in and near Elk Mountain Ranch, Fredric Neville Eshelman has a history of multi-million-dollar philanthropy, a long track record of conservative political donations, a complex inventory of land transactions in Carbon County — including the donation of several conservation easements — and a willingness to litigate.

“When I drive onto that ranch, it’s like a transformation.”

Fred Eshelman

The North Carolina businessman, whom Forbes estimated had a net worth of at least $380 million in 2014, came onto the Elk Mountain scene in 2005 when he bought the ranch that covers much of the 11,156-foot wildlife-rich peak. Because of the checkerboard land ownership pattern, the ranch blocks public access to some 6,400 acres of federal and state property under any interpretation of trespass laws that make corner crossing illegal.

One real estate listing described the ranch as covering “an area of more than 50 square miles,” which would be some 32,000 acres. The property was listed for $19.9 million, apparently by the pre 2005 owners. Court rulings, the listing stated, give the ranch owner exclusive access to the enmeshed public land, much of it in isolated mile-by-mile sections.

Don’t fence me out

Despite ranch manager Grende’s urgings, the Game and Fish and Sheriff’s officers who met with him last Oct. 1 did not cite the four Missouri hunters who were camped nearby. In a 16-minute conversation recorded on Sheriff Deputy Alex Brakken’s body camera, he and Wyoming Game and Fish officer Jake Miller explained their agencies’ positions to not cite people who corner cross.

Wyoming Game and Fish Commission policy shuns trespassing-to-hunt-charges in corner crossing cases. Wardens are to refer the matter to the local county attorney, Miller explained in the video. Brakken opined that corner crossing was not automatically a criminal trespass citation but would be considered by County and Prosecuting Attorney Ashley Mayfield Davis.

A still from the video shows Elk Mountain Ranch Manager Steve Grende talking with Wyoming Game and Fish officer Jake Miller. (Screengrab/Carbon County Circuit Court)

Several days later, however, at Davis’s behest, another deputy returned to the roadside camp on public U.S. Bureau of Land Management property and wrote the four men up. He cited hunters Zachary Smith, Phillip Yeomans, Bradly Cape and John Slowensky for criminal trespass, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum six-month sentence and $750 fine.

The hunters allege that Grende illegally harassed them while they were hunting on public land, but only they face charges. A trial is set for April 14 in Carbon County Circuit Court in Rawlins and could include a trespassing-to-hunt violation prosecutors seek to add against three of the defendants.

Even as the corner-crossing case was developing, the financial resources to fight a legal battle emerged as a key issue. Wyoming Backcountry Hunters and Anglers launched a GoFundMe campaign so the four could make their case in court without regard to their wealth. “We feel it imperative to not limit the scope of the legal proceedings to the financial resources of the defendants,” Wyoming BHA stated in a position paper.

Despite Grende’s assertions that his boss’s wealth, power and influence perhaps should play a role in stimulating a criminal case, Davis stated in court filings that her decision is based on a long-held policy. “The idea that corner crossing is illegal…has been a consistent policy of the Carbon County Attorney’s office at least since 2008,” she wrote.

Meantime the Elk Mountain Ranch owner, Iron Bar Holdings LLC — which lists Eshelman as its manager — sued the hunters in Carbon County District Court, bringing Eshelman’s resources to bear. Iron Bar seeks a declaration that the four Missouri men trespassed and asks for damages such as attorneys’ fees and costs.

‘Can’t look at hobbles’

“When I drive onto that ranch, it’s like a transformation,” Eshelman was quoted saying in a 2016 article in Triangle Business Journal. Among other pursuits out West, he told the publication, “I like to hunt mountain lion.”

Neither Eshelman’s company, Eshelman Ventures, nor an attorney representing him responded to WyoFile messages seeking an interview. A person answering the phone at Elk Mountain Ranch would not comment on the corner crossing case and another call to the ranch was not returned.

The Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is named after Fred Eshelman, who manages the company that owns the Elk Mountain Ranch. (Screengrab/UNC)

A successful career as a pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1972 appears to have given Eshelman and Iron Bar Holdings the means to buy Elk Mountain.

University accounts, Forbes and other sources sketched the following career. Eshelman earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Cincinnati and graduated from the Owner/President Management Program of Harvard Business School.

Eshelman founded consulting firm Pharmaceutical Product Development in Maryland in 1985, and thus launched a successful, independent and lucrative career in the drug and health business. PPD went public and eventually sold for $3.9 billion in 2011, Forbes reported.

Eshelman also founded Furiex Pharmaceuticals in 1998, which sold in 2014 “in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.1bn” Pharmaceutical Technology wrote. His current enterprise Eshelman Ventures is an investment firm focusing on healthcare companies.

Eshelman gave nearly $38 million to the pharmacy school at UNC through 2014, according to Forbes. That year he pledged another $100 million to the institution, which is now named the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. The university bestowed an honorary doctorate on him in 2017.

He’s also donated millions to conservative Republican candidates running for federal offices. In the 2008 election cycle he pumped $5.5 million into Rightchange.org, Eshelman’s “527” tax-exempt organization “formed primarily to influence a political election,” according to Open Secrets.

That public interest coalition tracks Federal Elections Commission reports and other public sources, like the IRS, that hold information regarding political contributions. The 2008 election contributions, which included $1 million from the president of PPD, launched “a barrage of attacks against Democrat Barack Obama during his presidential campaign,” Open Secrets stated.

From 2009-2010 Eshelman was the second top individual contributor to “outside money organizations” involved in elections during that period, donating $6.3 million, Open Secrets reported. Since the 2008 election cycle, Eshelman and PPD contributed at least $28.5 million to conservative and Republican federal political candidates, according to calculations made from the watchdog group’s website.

‘Where the West commences’

In Wyoming, Eshelman and Iron Bar Holdings executed a series of ranch purchases, sales and conservation easements starting in 2005 across tens of thousands of acres south of Interstate 80 in Carbon County

After buying the Elk Mountain Ranch in 2005, Iron Bar expanded its holdings, purchasing more than 7,000 acres from the McKee family in 2006. That property lies about 4 miles east of the Elk Mountain Ranch.

A map depicting some of the conservation easements in Carbon County just south of Interstate 80. (Labeled by WyoFile/Land Trust Alliance)

In 2007 Eshelman’s name appeared for the first time as president of the Basin Ranch Co., according to reports filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State. The Basin Ranch lies about 5 miles south of the Elk Mountain Ranch, abuts the Medicine Bow National Forest and appears to cover almost 12,000 acres, according to Carbon County property documents

The Basin Ranch borders a federal parcel that the Office of State Lands and Investments and water developers have identified for exchange to Wyoming. That swap would give Wyoming a holding inside the national forest to enable construction of the West Fork Reservoir above the Little Snake River in Carbon County.

In 2008 Eshelman signed three documents donating conservation easements in Carbon County to the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust. They cover about 22,438 acres across the Basin Ranch, the McKee Ranch and the Vickers Complex and preserve the tracts from substantial development, property documents show.

If voluntarily donated, a conservation easement “can qualify as a charitable tax deduction on the donor’s federal income tax return,” the Land Trust Alliance explains.

A story published in High Plains Journal in 2009 quotes Eshelman describing the goal of the easements.

“Ranch lands are vital to preserving open space and view sheds for future generations,” the Journal quoted Eshelman saying. “Development that occurs throughout the west [sic] is not an option. Continued agricultural operations and conserving the ranch lands for wildlife are a primary goal…”

Eshelman and his companies appear to have sold most of the holdings outside Elk Mountain Ranch since filing the 2008 easements. In December 2021 Eshelman signed a warranty deed turning over Basin Ranch property to Silver Spur Land and Cattle Co., a Colorado corporation owned by the John Malone family, estimated to be the largest private landowner in the U.S. Basin Ranch Co. dissolved at the end of last year, corporate papers show.

In 2021 Eshelman sold the McKee Ranch to trusts associated with Michael and Kerri Abatti, who list a California address. The conservation easements remain with the properties Eshelman and his companies deeded away, still protecting them from development.

The many transactions leave Iron Bar with the Elk Mountain Ranch, site of last fall’s corner crossing

‘Just turn me loose’

After officials cited the four hunters, and after they pleaded not guilty in Carbon County Circuit Court, Iron Bar filed its civil complaint in Carbon County District Court seeking, among other things, damages from the four hunters.

“To the fullest extent,” Iron Bar said, “the Court should require Defendants to pay the attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses incurred by Plaintiff in this litigation, as may be allowed by law.”

A photograph purporting to show the corner in question. (GoFundMe)

Because of where the trespass is alleged to have occurred, the court should penalize the defendants even more, the suit suggests. “The Court should provide other just and appropriate relief to the Plaintiff, the premises considered,” the complaint states.

The businessman and ranch owner is not a stranger to litigation. In 2019 he won a $22.3 million jury verdict in a defamation suit against Puma Biotechnology, an award since reversed on appeal and returned for a new trial on damages alone.

Eshelman also sought a variety of damages in 2020 in a suit filed after he donated $2.5 million to an effort to overturn Donald Trump’s loss in the presidential election. Eshelman had donated that amount to True the Vote, a Texas-based group, his suit states.

True the Vote “had organized its Validate the Vote 2020 effort to ensure the 2020 election returns reflect one vote cast by one eligible voter and thereby protect the right to vote and the integrity of the election,” the suit states. Widespread reporting about numerous efforts to overturn the presidential vote results has found no significant violations of election integrity.

By dismissing several of its own lawsuits, True the Vote failed to live up to obligations made in exchange for his “conditional gift,” Eshelman’s suit contends. Eshelman shifted court venues, a law firm representing True the Vote stated.

“[A]fter the attorneys representing both Eshelman and True the Vote had a conference with the federal judge, who cast doubt on his claims, Eshelman voluntarily dismissed that case and immediately filed the identical case in state court,” the Bopp Law Firm said in a post.

Meantime Eshelman seeks to “be by myself in the evenin’ breeze … listen[ing] to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,” as the song about the wide-open West goes. 

Many of the hunters’ backers on social media see his high-noon showdown as one that could resolve the unsettled corner-crossing issue.

As of Thursday, Wyoming Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ GoFundMe campaign had raised $68,905 to support the hunters’ day in court in the hope that someday they, like Roy Rogers, might “wander over yonder … underneath the western skies.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. I took more than a few minutes to read up on all this and it is clear that Mr. Eshelman feels he owns what is rightfully the public’s and so can use what he has not paid for with impunity. Ability to afford expensive legal counsel and to have the lack of care of how one is seen in the everyday world is a sure sign of lawsuit coming against “little folks”. Putting in small passing gates is a sure sign of good neighbors. Post your land as required against trespass and expect others to be willingly observant. I hope that the Missouri Four are given fair treatment in court and better yet, why not the five folks at the table sit down, share a beer or two and shake hands – parting knowing that goodwill outweighs anger and use of privilege every time. Bob Jarrard in Nevada and you can publish my email address which is bobjarrard@gmail.com – Perhaps Mr. Eshelman might share his email with us also.

  2. As has been reported recently, the hunters were aware of and adhered to existing surveying monuments and crossed the corner using a fence ladder that never touched private LAND. The suit by the landowner alleges that they trespassed by crossing over HIS airspace — so now he owns the land, uses public land as his private domain AND also owns the air over the entirety. Apparently, there IS a law that governs such an absurdity, but should we be surprised? Considering the Wyoming winds, whose air are you touching at any moment and, all things considered, should airspace also be taxed?

  3. The technicalities of what the “trespassers” did or didnt do doesnt astound me as much as how much money this “outdider,”Eshelman ,has and how mean- spirited he is/was to persecute the hunters who used a ladder to corner cross. What really got me, which no one else mentioned, is how much he spent to “True the vote” ie prove that Donald Trump won the election when he clearly and demonstrably did not!!! If he really wanted to be a good citizen of his adopted state he could have donated the same money to the Wyoming schools and accomplishrd a lot, instead of Nothing . Good teporting to dig up that piece of dirt!

  4. Another good one, Angus, reflecting considerable research & understanding of complex legal issues. Useful reporting on financial elements of case. Charlie Thomson

  5. I retired from the United States Forest Service four years ago where I served as the Visitor Information Services Assistant for the Rocky Mountain Regional Headquarters (R2 HQ). During my service I ran the Forest Service Help Desk that was once located within the former U.S. Geological Map Store on the Denver Federal Center. When the store was closed, I was assigned to the Colorado BLM State Office where I helped operate the Public Room for four and one half years. I can affirm that when an individual pays for an agricultural lease (aka “grazing lease”), recreational lease, or mining claim, the lessee is NOT permitted exclusive use of the leased federal land beyond the specifications of the lease agreement. In others words, if a rancher holds a “grazing lease,” they are permitted to graze a certain number of “units,” usually composed of a limited number of cows and calves for a limited period of time during a year. An agricultural lessee is NOT permitted to exclude other legal uses of the public land by non-lessees such as camping, hunting, hiking, or travel by horseback. ALL of the land within the western states currently under the administration of the Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, etc., was at one time under the jurisdiction of the U.S. General Land Office within the Department of the Interior. This corner-crossing situation reminds me of the historic Johnson County War waged by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association…..without the firearms and murders. If Mr. Eshelman actually said, “When I drive onto that ranch, it’s like a transformation,” he should appreciate that members of the public enjoy that same “transformation” when on vast parcels of public lands. I’ve seen it cut both ways; some members of the public have abused public lands, and some private lessors have pretended to own public parcels where they interfere with hunts and drive game onto their private land from public lands.

  6. Not sure if this applies to Wyoming, but in Maine on ponds of 10 acres or more , anyone has a right to cross private property in a direct line to access the water. It would seem appropriate to apply this direct access crossing private property to hunting too. Sad the lawyers have to get involved.

  7. A SAD deal for the Land Owner,Look at all the reges that the Traspacers, have in their own State,

  8. Livestock people in Wyoming have total and absolute control of public lands? What?>?? Keith is a really funny guy! Of course he’s puttin’ ya all on 🙂

  9. Folks, I’ve directly conversed with Mr. Blow and, he’s no troll. Keith adamantly believes the public lands are owned and controlled by Ranchers and soon, he’ll provide us here on Wyofile the Wyoming and Federal statutes proving this. In Keith’s own words regarding citizens accessing and recreating on public lands, “the free lunch is over”. So, for all the are planning a boating trip on Boysen, camping at Medicine Lodge, hunting Green Mountain or fishing the Miracle Mile, you’ll first need the access to these public properties authorized by a Wyoming rancher so, again quoting an email from Keith Blow, “govern yourselves, accordingly, public land Bubba’s”. I look forward to seeing these statutes, Keith!

  10. Hey Keith, for satire, entertainment and shock value, I’ll give you an A. You also get an A for effort but, for factuality, you get an F. I’m sure even the public land grazing lessee’s ker-schnufle in their beer reading your fiction. This is the real world, Mr. Blow, not Sesame Street

  11. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted* <—it seems Mr. Blow is allowed to repeatedly violate the TOS here on Wyofile with his purposely false and misleading comments regarding ownership of Public Lands and who/who can't be on these parcels. My fear is that some subsidized BLM rancher will take Mr. Blows comments to heart and get into a regrettable confrontation with someone accessing Public Lands. Keith Blow is probably just trolling this site and shouldn't be taken seriously but…just in case…

  12. i have always questioned the “cross corners” rule. responsible, law-abiding residents of wyoming should NOT be restricted from accessing public land, state or federally held, to hunt or recreate on such land.

  13. Rather than the courts, either congress or the legislature should settle this issue. There’s good points on each side. People may be entitled to cross corners onto public land, but there are also jerks who’ll abuse that same land at the rancher’s expense. Some state land near Sheridan, with public access, has had to be closed down repeatedly because people were trashing it. Responsibility goes both ways.

  14. The article states, “the ranch blocks public access to some 6,400 acres of federal and state property under any interpretation of trespass laws that make corner crossing illegal. The writer of this article is clueless! A 2004 WY Attorney General opinion on the Game and Fish trespass law states, “Accordingly, in order to be found guilty of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 23-3-305(b), one has to, without permission, enter upon private property of another with the intent to hunt, fish, or trap on that private property”. The key words in this opinion is “They must show intent to hunt on that private property”. The DA in Carbon County is clueless and should be removed!

  15. It takes a wealthy person to purchase and cause the operation of a ranching operation in todays agri-business world. With the price of land it is great that rich men still have the money to fund a ranch. They do not need the headache of four Missouri hunters wondering around the Elk Mountain area chasing a deer or elk with an arrow in its hip or even a bullet. They need to go home and hunt white tails in their own hood particularly if they do not know the rules of Wyoming and the West. I will say it again, they should have gone to the ranch manager and got permission to hunt on both the fee lands and the ranches lease lands. Problem would have been solved. That is what good neighbors do.

  16. This is precisely why I hate to see these out of staters come in and buy up the old ranches. They have more money than the state does and are not afraid to wield that threat. I grew up in this state, and spent my youth wandering all over the hills around my community. A friend and I spent hours walking around, on other peoples ground (ranchers) and they did not object as long as we left it as we found it, did no damage and left gates that were closed, closed and gates that were open, open. I am sorry that all these outsiders who came here for “safety” can’t leave their big city attitudes behind, and enjoy the reason they came here in the first place, FREEDOM.

  17. How does the government get to their parcels of land? Kinda stupid for the government to own these parcels if no one can use them.

    1. The ranchers lease them and make improvements on them. As a general public person you need to let the lease holder know you are on that “public” parcel. It is not your land it is the BLM’s or the States or the USFS land it is not the general publics land. Those lands are managed by those Agencies and as such they have the right to access those lands via roads and trails on a ranch. Since those Federal and State agency personnel are generally “local” people and get to know the Ranch managers and owners and develop a relationship and trust to be out on the parcels they manage. I will say it over and over those supposed “public” lands are not that at all they are owned by someone and it is not another private individual other than the ranch fee simple owner. All parcels are “owned” by someone or some entity that is a State or Federal Agency. As a general citizen wondering around the wilds of the open range or the mountains you do not have the right of access over those lands without permission from the Agency that controls this lands or the private landowner. Go get permission and act like a responsible individual that wants to be on someone else’s property.

      1. Completely wrong.

        The ranchers pay for grazing privileges on the land (pennies for thousands of acres), and rarely make any “improvements”. The federal government pays for a majority of the fencing and range improvements.

        The ranchers have ZERO right of ownership or control of the land, and there is also ZERO permission required to be on public land.

        1. And any “improvements” made are often subsidized by the Fed govt, sometimes 100% of the cost. Mr. Blow obviously lives in a different reality with his statements that public land is not really in the public domain and that the welfare cowpoke types actually are the rightful owners and a recreationalist would first have to obtain their permission for access. This is about as silly as it gets and even I have doubts that Keith Blow really believes this but hey, this medium does make for a good trolling platform

      2. These are absolutely pulled out of left field senseless comments by Keith Blow – 100% fabricated for our viewing pleasure.

      3. Hmm, ok, Keith, you think that U.S. taxpayers must first seek permission to access public lands. I’m guessing you mean BLM, Forest Service and National Parks. To expedite your request, would it be wise to create a central clearing house of permission? Why don’t you become the ultimate decision makers/permission grantor? Well, come on up to Cody and see how well things work for out for you when you try to block access for hunters on the Shoshone National Forest or the surrounding BLM lands. Can’t forget the tourists heading to Yellowstone. Put your money where your mouth is, Keith, and let’s test your theory that public lands aren’t public and try to stop us from access our lands.

      4. Public land is just that. Ranchers who haven’t purchased it don’t own it and their manipulation & strong arm tactics are wrong. I’ve had jerks under orders from ranchers harass and scare away game, shoot near herds of elk to chase them off public. Law enforcement doesn’t make them follow the law. All this BS is the fault of a series of government entities not acting in the public interest. Sell or trade landlocked public land or provide legal access to the public parcels.

  18. It clearly appears now, those four unfortunatly prosected individuals who were simply accessing their public land via corner crossing….will “Need a bigger boat”.

  19. Should the elephant in the room be addressed? These private ranches that are using the citizen’s of Wyoming fish and game for their own gain and profit through hunting/fishing leases/outfitting on Federal land (the people’s land) by using strong arm tactics such as “corner crossing” to prevent the people from having access to the public lands.

  20. Why no charges against people that walk on public sidewalks that borders private property and they touch the private property? With this logic of “corner crossing” any person that touches the private property that borders the sidewalk or puts their arm or foot over the private property should be charged with criminal trespass. Does that sound ludicrous? Well it is, just like getting charged for criminal trespass for corner crossing. Corner crossing is not in violation of W.S. 6–3-303 Criminal Trespass as a person is not entering or remaining on or in the land or premises of another person.

  21. Reading more of the comments,I conclude that this rich dude who owns the ranch is exactly the type that Bernie Sanders was talking about. ( I believe Sanders won the Democratic primary in Wyoming )So how come y’all voted against your own best interests by electing another corrupt tax dodger, the New Yorker, Donald Trump? He’d be on the side of Elk Mountain and you know he would .

  22. Just proves that money can buy anything, even the judges and lawyers…while Freddy sits on his man looking down at the poor folk.

  23. It looks pretty obvious that some, if not all of the legislators in Cheyenne are in deep with the big property owners and the -can you spare me a dime- public land mooches, along with some elected County attorneys. Of course one should never trust law enforcement, be it a deputy or game warden but, my question to WyoFile readers is, with the obvious hold on this state by the land barons and cowboys, are the judges on take, too?

    Will this lawsuit just be another smoky backroom deal with the plaintiff, prosecutor and judge having laughs and drinks after a brief kangaroo court session? Or maybe the verdict has already been purchased? Feudalism is alive and well here in Wyoming, it’s out in the open and in our faces. How can justice truly be served?

  24. I think it is a shame the way the Game and Fish dept. lays out the public hunting land. When they lay it out in a checker board pattern, and they wont let you corner cross, the only people that benefits are the land owner and the outfitter he leases his land to. Do the tax payers of Wyoming know their hard earned money does not benefit them or the out of state sportsmen when we visit? I think this is almost criminal the way they do this.
    Thank you, Todd Meyer

    1. The Game & Fish doesn’t “lay out” the public hunting land. They are charged with managing, they don’t determine ownership.

    2. The ownership of the land was established, in part, when the railroad was built. Beside the railroad, the railroad company got a certain number of sections. In addition, in the west, some sections were retained by the state as “school sections” to either economically or physically support the school. Plus, large portions of the west were not settled, either being retained as public for aesthetic reasons, or because they were not really agriculturally usable.
      These are the portions managed by various government agencies.

  25. The home grown Wyoming BLM handout crowd along with the out o’ town jet set land barons have long had shills in place at the County Courthouses as well as deeply embedded in the Legislature. These folks have long worked in unison for years to annex public lands and shove the residents around. It looks like now that the citizens of Wyoming are going to fight back and one by one, these shills will be exposed for who they are.
    On another note, have any of you public land users noticed the blatant over grazing that’s occurred on both Federal and State lands this past year? It’s very hard to find even a small parcel that wasn’t pummeled into the ground, with nothing but cow patties laying on top and sludge flowing in the streams. All for a Buck-thirty five a month ‘rent’ per cow-calf. Wyoming ranchers constantly harp that they are the ‘true’ conservationists……bull crap. This leaching as occurred since the days of the Johnson County wars and makes many a multi generation Wyomingite disgusted by how the BLM hand me out crowd + fly in robber barons have done to our land and people and they still try to keep us off what is now barren wastelands

  26. This is probably not news to some but, for those that don’t know, the rich out of staters and the local welfare handout cowboys alike are able to tie up public land at a measley $1.35 per Animal Unit (AU) An AU = 1 cow & calf or 5 sheep. So, let’s use 1 section (640 ac) of BLM on the Eshelman Holdings. We’ll assume he’s running cattle on it for a grazing season, 4 months. The stocking capacity for 640 acres is probably 16 cow/calves. $1.35 x 16 pairs x 4 mo =$86.40. Fore a little over 86 bucks rent, Eshelman gets to control 1 square mile of federally owned property.

    I believe the BLM administrative cost to manage grazing leases is $8.00 an AU. $8.00 x 16 pairs x 4 mo = $512.00. Our government is NEGATIVE $425.60 in the hole. So, the Eshelman’s and welfare cowpokes alike are allowed to run wild at a cost to the taxpayers of over $425 per section of public land. Anytime you drive past public land as see livestock grazing, YOU are losing $$$

    It also sound like Eshelman’s Elk Mt Ranch also outfits hunters at who knows what fee. The wildlife belong to the citizen of Wyoming but here Eshelman goes – blocking off public lands and utilizing a free inventory of wildlife for profit.

    I see Ember Oakley, house dist 55 Rep’s name brought up. Along with this Ashley Mayfield, Oakley is also a County Attorney (Fremont). Isn’t fining and imprisoning citizens over trespass/public lands a local government money making engine? Like someone mentioned, the Eshelman’s of the world are not the only problem when they’ve harnessed “home grown” internal forces to work for them

    1. Now there’s the math that has been happening for generations…..I always knew the late, great “rancherroos” in WY got grazing in forests/BLM etc. for pennies. And that fierce, pulled-up bootstrap notion –that rep. “Harry” Hageman–lasso in hand, no less– that rallied every farm bureau jello-fried chicken-brisket-soggy apple pie luncheon attendee in every county checked all her voter boxes to soundly reject the Liz Cheney (guilt walk-back perspective…) on trumpish
      election purloin fantasy. Her warpaint and outsized SW squash- blossom armament flat out scared the sheeple into complete forment of cultish denial.
      And WY doesnt know where future revenue lay….or why/when/if their educated children will ever come back and fix fence for the next 58 years.
      MT enjoys nearly $ 66 million yearly from fly-fishing on navigatible rivers instate while WY rivers are off public use largely for same. And “by GAWD, we can’t have those damn wind towers thrumming all day and night in the incessant wind, keeping the livestock unrested and the precious raptors–(that we used to shoot 24/7…) have disturbed population disruptions..”
      ” who in the hell do the BLM people think they are, anyway ?? we have always
      grazed the sparse feedlots with the best long-standing ‘stewardship’ history that is so ev–dent…”

      Hide in the bushes and watch what happens after Nov. 2024 when trump maga
      returns to “right” the ship that perils WY today…

  27. Would you like to guess where local district attorney gets her re-election funds from? And there lies a problem as well. I always questioned if they own space above the land to heaven. Why no charges against airplanes that “violate” the space? Law needs to be applied evenly.

  28. Another issue: How much does this super rich guy pay in state taxes on his vast Wyoming property? Compared to, say, what he’d pay in Colorado. Does he declare himself a Wyoming resident? If so that means he can die in Carbon County and what he pays Wyoming in estate tax will be less than it would be in most, maybe all, other states. How many months is he actually living in Wyo,? There’s a reason why people like him declare residence in Wyoming and it’s not just to hear the eagles singing to the mountain lions.

    1. There is reason to declare wyoming residence. No state income tax. He owns land. Has address so all he needs is to get Wyoming drivers license. Plus it is legal to have his buisness regestered here as well. No Corporate tax rate. Rich try to beat taxes like everyone else. Be very interesting to see what “damages” he incurred by the hunters. One should not have any legal costs incurred. Unless it was hi powered attorney pushing for charges. Other item odd. Was deputy that wrote the charges ORGINALly involved in the ORGINAL cost? That odd as well. In this case I don’t think DA could charge without officer written citation. See how the game works?

  29. ANGUS M. THUERMER JR. Great job of reporting. Here is some missing information about Elk Mountain it has been land locked since 1969, owned by Palm Livestock Company. The was a private club known as the Safari Club the hunting and fishing was patrolled even then. Those holding were sold to a man known as Peter Terryout. He started the nature conservative on the ranch, along with Bison ranching. He sold the ranch to Fred, for the amount mentioned and he also purchased eight family-owned ranches along with their holding as mentioned. Pretty much locking up the Elk Mountain and Medicine River drainage, on the Eastern and Southwestern side of this Mountain Area.
    Not only did he cut off access, pretty much shut down all access for the Elk Mountain Community, if you did get to go on his property, you were required to sign a legal document, as liability waver, I did, just so his former employee could show the wife and I the Elk bugling, she’d never heard one.
    Next as a businessman, he has not done one thing for this community by investing in the community that supports him for his employees sign non-disclosure agreements. He does contract haying and gives those who part-take a share of the hay as payment.
    However here is a story worth mentioning. This man is the only private businessman to use imamate domain as a private business against another businessman. The court case went to the Supreme court, where he then got
    decision was in his favor. However, then Justice Oconner call the judgement a travesty. It was over a Warehouse in State of Massachusetts.
    As for his attorney in Wyoming he has holdings in Sheridan and along with chair in the Wyoming Legislative body. As for our local Attorney as mentioned in your article, I would agree with your comments. I suggest you look at his grazing habits and along with his taxation on those incomes. For Wyoming lacks in adjusting grazing fees to the current markets, he pastures 12, to 14 thousand steers on the Taylor grazing act of 1939.

  30. Conservation easements get mixed reviews. “A conservation easement, in its original, legitimate form, is granted when a landowner permanently protects pristine land from development. In that scenario, the public enjoys the benefit of undeveloped land and the taxpayer gets a charitable deduction” (ProPublica 01/03/2020).
    But there has been abuse-


    This is an astute investor and sophisticated land owner that is seeking to prevent public access to public lands and who would be expected to know that this issue would arise.

  31. Thank you angus. good research job
    Some pretty good comments so far
    Mr Grende put his foot in his mouth
    When he uttered those famous Jane Fonda comments like Do you know who we are? I’m guilty of slips like that myself over the yrs didn’t help mr Fred’s cause much
    I’m afraid my friend Ashley has cooked her own goose come Election Day by sticking it to these guys with additional charges
    Mr Fred hasnt helped himself by heaping civil problems on these guys
    Either. Human nature is such that folks tend to support the little guy when the battle rage
    From early statehood the wyoming ranching industry has had considerable clout and say how things are done
    Make no mistake they are the salt of the earth in my mind no matter where I’ve lived. They should occassionly recollect the Johnson war however
    Tying up millions of acres of public land for exclusive use of adjacent
    Private landowners doesn’t seem right
    And when it’s some rich. Out of staters
    That only adds to the injury
    I can’t foresee the free enterprise system changing anytime soon but there is one thing that could be done
    And that is for the fs and blm to charge user fees that more accurately resemble fairer compensation for this exclusive use of our land. Those deep pocket types can surely afford it
    We still won’t be able to access our own land but that would seem a little fairer

  32. “This land is all there is, the only thing worth anything, of any value.”( Of Prey and Predators by Echo Klaproth) All the attention the Carbon Co. corner crossing case is great but I would like to talk about a parcel that is landlocked.The land I want to see gain public access is a little over twenty thousand acres known as the North Fork Wilderness Study Area in Johnson Co. Wy. You can imagine what it must look like (I was in there once on a search and rescue call ) to be considered for Wilderness designation. It has over six miles of North Fork of Powder River with blue ribbon fishing. Governor Gordon’s family ranch has the best access to this land, it is only one half mile across the Gordon Ranch to BLM.

    1. Randy: I doubt if the BLM/USFS wants to acquire access to a Wilderness Study Area for use by the general public – in order to preserve its wilderness characteristics, isolation is necessary. Basically, that means back pack or horse pack in by a different route ( the long way around ). The Federal government has the power of eminent should they desire to use it but I just don’t think they would use it in this case.

  33. It is wrong for landowners to lock people out of state and federal land.,.it belongs to everyone!!! The landowners should be required to provide access through road or trail easement.

    1. You are so right, when we come from Iowa to Wyoming to hunt antelope, we are always dealing with access problems. I would guess that well over half the “public land” is not accessible to any one other than the land owner and the outfitter he has leased the hunting rights to. This is a Damm shame!
      Respectfully, Todd Meyer

    2. Jerry: Wyoming statutes contain provisions for the Board of County Commissioners to establish access to isolated parcels of land which do not have legal access. That would require the Carbon County BOCC to pursue the legally established method of acquiring access; however, it all comes down to a vote by the BOCC. They probably wouldn’t be interested and certainly wouldn’t want to get Carbon County into a lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. It certainly should be discussed in the upcoming Carbon County elections for commissioner seats.

  34. In the US, wealth always rules, all the nonsense about “democracy” notwithstanding…since they own what passes for politicians these days. The founders would approve… Until people awaken and do something about it, wealth always will rule. So, far, all people do is cheer the robber barons…

  35. If private landowners are preventing access to public lands the fee charged by BLM and USFS should be adjusted to accurately resemble the grazing and private hunting fees charged by private owners. This is from the BLM website:
    “Congress tasked the BLM with a mandate of managing public lands for a variety of uses such as energy development, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting while ensuring natural, cultural, and historic resources are maintained for present and future use.

    To do this, we manage public lands to maximize opportunities for commercial, recreational, and conservation activities. This promotes healthy and productive public lands that create jobs in local communities while supporting traditional land uses such as responsible energy development, timber harvesting, grazing, and recreation, including hunting and fishing.”
    Recreation on public lands becomes a ripoff by large land owners when the public lands are off limits due to the blocking of access.

    1. Exactly. If the BLM grazing fee was increased 10 fold it would still not be keeping up with inflation. Ranchers only love welfare for themselves.

  36. It seems like there is an easy answer to this: you benefiting from public land leases either to graze stock or get loans? Great. Then allow public (walk in) access or lose your leases. Many problems solved.

  37. Folks, consider this. The ‘bad guy’ is not necessarily the rich landowner(s). The actual enemies live amongst us, here in Wyoming.

    You have local yokels (such as Grende) who willingly go to work for these rich out of state people and do their bidding by attempting to run their neighbors and citizens off of public land. Then you have the folks that us/we voted in. You have Ember Oakley, hd55 rep who pushed to have punitive fines upped as well as longer jail time for citizens who allegedly have trespassed to public land. Curious to note that Oakley only squeaked by an outsider Libertarian by 6/10th of a percent of the vote and with hardly any endorsements by prominent Fremont County republicans. But yet, by the narrowest of margins, citizens put her in the Legislature.

    Of course can’t forget to mention another voted in public servant, Carbon County Attorney Ashley Mayfield, who has not only sided with the Elk Mtn gazillionaire, but has also piled on more charges against the hunters. Has the obvious siding with the rich guy protected and enhanced your lives, Carbon County citizens?

    The enemies of public land recreationalists are here in Wyoming and always have been. They’re in your town, they’re living next door to you and smile at you when you pass them on the sidewalk. And yet “you” voted them so they can turn around and stick it to you. We need to do a much better job of vetting these people and if they somehow still sneak through the cracks, work diligently to get them out of any kind of position of power. It all starts locally

    1. Well said. We vote these people in and then are shocked when they turn around and stab us in the backs. Can’t fault Mr. Eshelman here as he leverages these sellouts to do his dirty deeds. They seem more then happy to do so..

      As far as this ranch manager Mr. Grende, well sir, I bet you’re a real popular dude right now amongst your fellow residents of Carbon County. Any short term gain by gophering for Eshelman will be minused out when you can’t find a job anywhere else. Don’t be quitting your day job working for the dude that has “so much land, so much money”, Grende, you’re going to need it!

  38. Public lands should be just that, the amount of money in a persons account shouldn’t
    give them the right to block the true owners of the land ( the public ) . Ashley Davis should be removed from office for her role in this matter.

  39. So, basically, you can add up: Do you know who I am? type – Rich Guy – donates to conservatives – donates to conservation and what does this all = to public land access? NOTHING. Eshelman has no more clout then the clod kicking, BLM welfare cowboy in trying to hinder the public’s access to PUBLIC ground.

    As far as Mr. Grende stating “you know how much land and $ my boss has?” It shouldn’t matter and doesn’t matter. Oh wait, apparently the Carbon Co. Attorney is enamored by the $ and land, though. Hopefully the corner cross guys lawsuit prevails and the voters of Carbon Co. run Ashley Mayfield right out of town on the next train.

  40. The very last thing land-rich plutocrat conservatives like Eshelman want is to conserve the rights of ordinary folks’ to access public lands anywhere near their ever-expanding land grabs.

  41. Let’s go back,50 maybe 70 yrs, A Rancher I met at Casper Fair most every yr. He owned a sizable Ranch in Converce, He was getting tired of Oil Com. just using his roads, and never fixing, One morning he went out , put new gate on road and waited, here came oil rig, When they got out of truck He say, you do not go thought till you fix road, Of course Oil rig big, he gets in to drive though, and Ranch, put some buck shot in his windshield, Too trial they go when they got done Treaspass rules were changed, You got to ask, then fix road, end of story, why change something that is working.

  42. Thank you Angus. I appreciate your research into the background of the landowner involved in this disagreement though it seems to be the story behind most of the mega ranch owners in Wyoming and elsewhere in the United States these days. Made all their money someplace else while doing something else and came to Wyoming to be a gentleman cattle rancher when the mood hits them. Fly in on their jet, get some dust on their jeans and boots, and fly back to Chicago on Tuesday. Just like any real Wyoming 4th generation rancher. Now that the Yellowstone TV series is so popular it will only get worse. It would appear that most of them get their manners and their attitudes from TV too.

  43. Good for him for his success.

    Too bad he is using his wealth to limit access to public land, to bully others, and to corral public resources for himself at the expense of those who own the resources. Nothing unexpected really. In Jackson, the wealthy threaten to sue you if you try to build affordable housing on public property near their property and they often use conservation easements to enrich themselves. That is not the issue under debate, however.

    Eshelman’s wealth, political agendas, personal and legal history are a side show unless he has “purchased” political favors in regards to the corner crossing issue.

    Wyoming needs to change its laws if they are limiting reasonable access to public lands and locking
    up public lands in private hands in the process.

    No harm came to Eshelman from these hunters. He is just a wealthy bully out to take control of public resources.

  44. Corner crossing should not be illegal. The land itself is puplic. The air is puplic. A persons wealth should not enable them to control millions of acres of public land.