The University of North Carolina published this photo of Fred Eshelman at a ceremony for the school of pharmacy, to which he has donated millions. He is the manager of Iron Bar Holdings LLC, a New Hanover County, North Carolina, company that owns the Elk Mountain Ranch. (Screengrab/UNC)

The owner of Elk Mountain Ranch asserts that four Missouri hunters who corner-hopped to hunt public land near his property caused damages that could exceed $7 million.

An attorney for Iron Bar Holdings LLC, official owner of the ranch, made the claim in documents that are part of a trespassing civil suit filed against the hunters in February. As part of the lawsuit, which is now in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming, Iron Bar attorney Gregory Weisz signed a disclosure statement that alleges damages of between $3.1 million to $7.75 million.

Weisz signed the document Aug. 29 and served it on those involved in the corner-crossing case. A source allowed WyoFile to see the document on the condition of anonymity.

The damage figure is “the most egregious thing I’ve seen,” said Land Tawney, the president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a nationwide sportspersons’ conservation group that has supported the hunter’s defense. By claiming such large damages, the ranch owner is continuing a pattern of bullying, this time in court, Tawney said.

Some ranchers see the issue differently. A decision that corner crossing or other ways of accessing public land is not trespassing could devalue a ranch “by the fact it’s no longer closed property — it’s open to public crossing,” said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

“Simply put, the [hunters’] argument that federal law authorizes trespass across private property is patently incorrect.”

Karen Budd-Falen, attorney for Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Wyoming Wool Growers Association.

The civil suit alleges that the four men trespassed when they crossed from one piece of public U.S. Bureau of Land Management land to another at the four-corner intersection with two pieces of property belonging to Elk Mountain Ranch. In the checkerboard-pattern of land ownership in Carbon County, the men hunted on the public land without setting foot on private property.

The suit claims the men trespassed by passing through the airspace above the ranch, interfering with “the exclusive use, possession, and control” of the property. Attorneys for Iron Bar distributed the disclosure document as part of the legal process that requires parties to list and share potential witnesses and a computation of alleged damages in preparation for a trial, the date of which has not been set.

The disclosure statement is four pages long and is supported by what one source said is another 104 pages of deeds, an appraisal and other material. The disclosure statement says it is likely that Fredric Eshelman, a North Carolina businessman, would testify for Iron Bar Holdings. The Carbon County prosecuting attorney identified Eshelman as the owner of Elk Mountain Ranch during a related criminal trespass trial in April.

$31-million ranch

The list of alleged damages includes a $10 figure for civil trespass damages, according to the disclosure statement. It also lists an estimate of actual damages of between $3.1 million to $7.75 million.

Those alleged actual damages arise from a 10%-25% diminution of the value of Iron Bar Holdings’ property, according to the disclosure statement. To support the claim, material appended to the statement includes an appraisal of the ranch.

Corner-crossing defendants wait for their trial to begin in Rawlins on April 27, 2022. They are Phillip Yeomans, second from left and partly obscured; John Slowensky, foreground in the front row, Bradly Cape, second from left in back row and Zach Smith, right. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Norman C. Wheeler & Associates, a Montana company specializing in rural property appraisals, appraised the Elk Mountain Ranch at $31.31 million in 2017, according to a document with the company letterhead that’s attached to the disclosure statement. That value included 22,042 acres and $5.96 million in buildings.

Other damages claimed in the statement include $7,500 from interference with a military veterans’ hunting program, interference with other operations and costs incurred through extra employee time. The value of still more alleged damages, including the hunters’ purported contention that any person may cross Iron Bar’s private property without permission, will be determined at trial, the disclosure states.

Other costs, expenses and fees also will be determined at trial, according to the statement.

In addition to Eshelman, who made a fortune in the pharmaceutical business, Iron Bar could call ranch property manager Steve Grende and another employee, Becky Englert, as witnesses.

In addition to the civil lawsuit, hunters Phillip Yeomans, Bradly Cape, John Slowensky and Zachary Smith faced criminal trespass charges for the same incident filed by the Carbon County attorney. A Carbon County Circuit Court jury in April found them not guilty of criminal trespass and trespassing to hunt, misdemeanor charges filed after their 2021 trip to Wyoming.

The civil case could have implications for accessing an estimated 8.3 million acres of public land across the West, 2.44 million of which are in Wyoming. That’s the acreage estimated to be “corner locked” by any interpretation of the law that prohibits corner crossing, according to an analysis by the onX digital mapping company.

The hunters believe the Unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885 allows them access to public land.

Wyoming Backcountry Hunters and Anglers organized a GoFundMe campaign to ensure the hunters could defend themselves regardless of their financial resources. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the nationwide umbrella group to which the Wyoming chapter belongs, sought to support the hunters’ civil defense to ensure the case was decided in federal, not state court, an issue that’s since been resolved.

Private property rights

BHA president Tawney said the $3.1 million-$7.75 million damages figure continues a pattern of behavior by Elk Mountain Ranch owners and operators.

“The ranch manager bullied these [hunter] guys” when he confronted them on public land in the field, Tawney said. “They bullied the prosecuting attorney” in Carbon County and convinced her to file criminal charges, he said.

A fence guards private property at the Elk Mountain Ranch, site of a corner-crossing controversy. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

“And now they try to use these other tactics of bullying against all public land users,” he said. Lawsuits that claim exorbitant damages are “a tactic wealthy individuals use over and over again” to intimidate others, he said.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is not fighting against private property rights, he said.

“This is about keeping [open] the opportunity for the public to access public land,” he said. “We want willing partners, but also access to public land that is rightfully ours.”

Magagna’s stock growers group, along with Wyoming Wool Growers Association, filed an amicus brief in the civil suit on behalf of landowners who believe corner crossing is trespassing. Such filings are allowed so that parties can weigh in on cases in which they may have information, expertise and insight even though they are not a party to the action.

“We’re not taking any position with specifics of this case,” Magagna said. The issue affects private property rights and the right to control access, “including corner crossing and reasonable airspace,” he said.

The stock and wool growers amicus brief does not address damages, said Karen Budd-Falen, a Cheyenne attorney who filed 41 pages, including attachments, for the agricultural groups. It does attack the hunters’ position that the UIA allows corner crossing.

“Questions as to the existence and scope of a person’s property right have long been a creature of state law,” Budd-Falen wrote. She quoted a court decision that “[p]roperty interests are not created by the Constitution, but … are created and their dimensions are defined by … an independent source such as state law.

“Congress did not reserve any means of access to [public] reserved lands in the checkerboard,” the brief reads. “Simply put, the [hunters’] argument that federal law authorizes trespass across private property is patently incorrect… The Unlawful [I]nclosures Act did not repeal the prohibition against trespass on private lands to access federal lands.”

Budd-Falen contends the issue should be settled by the Wyoming Supreme Court, not in the federal venue.

Iron Bar Holdings attorney Weisz did not respond to requests for comment Friday morning.

A trial could take place next summer and last several days, according to court documents.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

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. As a person who holds a Masters in Information Science (librarianship) I would like to recommend that the use of two well known Dictionaries could save the Justice Committee and WyoFile a great deal of time.
    1. Webster’s Dictionary provides commonly understood definitions of words like trespass. The editorial board of the publication review at least 50 documented usages of words from across the country and include the word in a current addition based on a commonly accepted usage and definition from citizens of the US.
    2. The Oxford English Dictionary is a massive 2 volume set, that has been accepted intellectually as a definition of words through all their iteration including countries who first developed use of the word and what that originally was up today’s commonly used definition.
    3. We have a State Librarian, University and College Librarians who could help the state legislators and government from the very start to define the words in a commonly used definition. We could have a WY unique Librarian of Congress who would perform the same way as the US Library of Congress which would provide some consistency for what laws are passed so that any citizen of the United States could understand the definition of “trespass”. Hunters, ranchers, state governments could save a lot of time, money and lawsuits if laws weren’t buried in “unique hidden bills” within all the laws. What a concept right!!

  2. Feudalism, in its various forms, usually emerged as a result of the decentralization of an empire: especially in the Carolingian Empire in 9th century AD, which lacked the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary to support cavalry without allocating land to these mounted troops. Mounted soldiers began to secure a system of hereditary rule over their allocated land and their power over the territory came to encompass the social, political, judicial, and economic spheres.

    In the 18th century, Adam Smith, seeking to describe economic systems, effectively coined the forms “feudal government” and “feudal system” in his book The Wealth of Nations (1776).
    According to Smith, the fall of Rome and the rise of feudalism retarded this progression of social economics, innovation, efficiencies, etc. by creating a system of decreased efficiency.
    The wealth of a nation is increased not by hoarding metals, but by increasing the productive capacity by expanding the market—by increasing trade.

    Hoarding of wealth & assets has historically led towards social & economic regression, not progression.

    18th century Britain (and much of Europe) was witnessing massive concentrations of wealth, and hence power.

    The U.S., like much of the world, is currently seeing levels of income & wealth inequality not seen since the early 1900’s.

  3. The entire corner crossing issue/debate is humorous, beyond stupid ridiculous. I have been here in Wyoming 70 years, born here. I come from ranching and hunting background.
    PERHAPS it is past time for sportsmen and women all citizens to file billions of dollars lawsuit against lease holders for lost opportunities and access to public, my land and yours.

    1. No. They and BHA got themselves into this mess. They’re playing with the potential of major secondary effects to macro-level property values and real estate tax receipts with a potential precedent setting ruling in their favor that could grant broad access to landlocked public parcels. They can pay for this themselves.

  4. Is not Eshleman and company not infringing on at least 50 percent of the airspace above corners by prohibiting legal owners (members of the public) from enjoying their rights? This entire issue is ridiculous. Federal law provides that grazing privileges (which are not rights) can be revoked if lawful hunting on public land is denied. BLM should just yank any grazing permits Eshelman holds.

    1. More food for thought:
      Taylor Grazing Act
      43 U.S. Code § 315 – Grazing districts; establishment; restrictions; prior rights; rights-of-way; hearing and notice; hunting or fishing rights
      Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed as in any way altering or restricting the right to hunt or fish within a grazing district in accordance with the laws of the United States or of any State, or as vesting in any permittee any right whatsoever to interfere with hunting or fishing within a grazing district.

      1. More for thought. Did Eshleman violate legal hunting activity?
        CFR Subpart 4140 – Prohibited Acts
        § 4140.1 Acts prohibited on public lands.

        (7) Interfering with lawful uses or users including obstructing free transit through or over public lands by force, threat, intimidation, signs, barrier or locked gates;
        A grazing permittee or lessee performing any of the prohibited acts listed in paragraphs (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this section on an allotment where he is authorized to graze under a BLM permit or lease may be subject to the civil penalties set forth at § 4170.1-1, if:
        (i) The permittee or lessee performs the prohibited act while engaged in activities related
        § 4170.1-1 Penalty for violations.
        (a) The authorized officer may withhold issuance of a grazing permit or lease, or suspend the grazing use authorized under a grazing permit or lease, in whole or in part, or cancel a grazing permit or lease and grazing preference, or a free use grazing permit or other grazing authorization, in whole or in part, under subpart 4160 of this title, for violation by a permittee or lessee of any of the provisions of this part.
        § 4170.2-1 Penal provisions under the Taylor Grazing Act.
        Under section 2 of the Act any person who willfully commits an act prohibited under § 4140.1(b), or who willfully violates approved special rules and regulations is punishable by a fine of not more than $500.
        § 4170.2-2 Penal provisions under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
        Under section 303(a) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.), any person who knowingly and willfully commits an act prohibited under § 4140.1(b) or who knowingly and willfully violates approved special rules and regulations may be brought before a designated U.S. magistrate and is punishable by a fine in accordance with the applicable provisions of Title 18 of the United States Code, or imprisonment for no more than 12 months, or both.

    2. You along with many of the commenters here keep talking about a moot point in this case. This Iron Bar Ranch is not a cattle ranch. This guy doesn’t have any cattle out there. Only the lord knows what goes on out at this place. There are zero cattle on this “ranch.” Yes, the price people pay for grazing an AUM is absurdly low, but the guy or shadow entity that owns this place doesn’t run cows. Your fight with these technocratic land barons shouldn’t be with the BLM over grazing fees, but the voters who continually elect wanna be ranchers who are in reality elitist hobby farmers, such as Barry Crago. They are the ones who don’t want you accessing the “leased” land they think is their own.

  5. May I suggest that Wyofile find an attorney experienced with both state & federal law and get his expert opinion on whether or not the doctrine of stare decisis might apply to this case.

    The underlying tort in this case for damages is the tort of trespassing. In this instance based on the same actions there also issued a criminal complaint for trespassing. Verdict not guilty. Criminal law has the higher burden of proof – beyond a reasunable ddoubt.

    Why can not the defendanuts attornies file a motion requesting the judge to take judicial notice of the criminal verdict. Then request he apply the doctrine of stare decisis to recognize the issue of trespass has already been adjudicated & it had been determined no trespass had occurred.
    Since no trespass has occured defendants should request a summary judgement dismissing the suit. No trespass. No right to sue. No damages.
    Perhaps sean damages for filing a frivolous suit if Fed law or court rules so allow. As well as court costs & attorney fees.
    So WyFile how about. Why not an article exploring this angle. To get you started
    Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.

    When a court faces a legal argument, if a previous court has ruled on the same or a closely related issue, then the court will make their decision in alignment with the previous court’s decision. The previous deciding-court must have binding authority over the court; otherwise, the previous decision is merely persuasive authority. In Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, the U.S. Supreme Court described the rationale behind stare decisis as “promot[ing] the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, foster[ing] reliance on judicial decisions, and contribut[ing] to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.”

    1. Well, that principle of stare decisis sure didn’t hold in the US Supreme Court decision on Roe V Wade, did it? Scary times ahead. If we had courageous legislators at the Federal level, they could just pass a law saying that a ten foot right of way, unimpeded, must be provided at every corner such as this in question. Sadly, won’t happen, I suspect.

    2. The state’s definition of criminal trespass doesn’t define the common law tort of trespass. They are two different things. There is no stare decisis to apply because the circuit court in Rawlins never decided the issue of whether the landowner suffered the tort of trespass. The criminal violation was prosecuted by the State on behalf of the people. Now, the landowner seeks to vindicate his private rights in a tort action. Another way of thinking about it is that the circuit court jury never held that a “trespass didn’t occur”, rather the court held that the defendants were not guilty of trespass defined by the Wyoming criminal code.

      1. Well in this case I agree it should be decided by the state court in which it is in. And it should never see a federal court room. And as far as the airspace is concerned that contends to laws about flying planes over any ground space so I am going to say the laws of the state pertain hear to the equations of right or wrong. Trespassing is wrong. And accountability is what keeps it all worth being here. We must respect everyone’s property not just wealthy ranchers exc. We also need to legally address access issues in all states to blm and statelands. But the way to do it is in a court of law before a trespass occurs. Or we all just through our the law of the land which helps non of us. Please understand I been on both sides as a land owner and a civilian trying to figure a way to hunt that BLM land. Hope it works out for all. Very well put it should have been a realized issue at the time it was sold. There are states that no longer allow anyone to landlock another parcel regardless of means of crossing an easement is gaurenteed. Granted buyer beware of the right to get to the property they are purchasing but they will have a legal easement.

  6. So interesting and a very good article. Damages to the land Iron Bar Holdings seem high but I am not in real estate so I dont know. All my life I have heard folks complain about the gov owning too much land . Now mega millionaires are buying up millions of acres of land and sometimes prevent access to gov owned land. Might want to reconsider the option of gov owning and managing land for all of us to use. Stock growers and outdoors people benefit from government owned land.

  7. Sounds to me like the state of Wyoming is undervaluing our state land. This case should have open the state legislature eyes.

  8. Fred Eshelman’s master plan to have complete domain over public lands was foiled when the Missouri “Four” were found Not Guilty of criminal trespass. Because of this, Eshelman learned that, No, he did not “own” this public land and his last attempt hail mary-style to spook and intimidate the “Four” is to lob a frivolous $7M lawsuit at them, claiming they “degraded” the value of his “Ranch”….this frivolous garbage is going to backfire on you. Here’s what you did, Eshelman, you bought a ranch that contained pennies to the acre parcels of “lease” land, property of the Citizens of the United States. You were not issued a deed to the BLM nor do you have ultimate lordship. Other then making yourself look like a fool, you’ve also have done us all public land users a huge favor by giving the Wyoming Stock Growers and other Feudal entities a big wake up call about the impending wave of public land users that are coming your way and theirs. Thanks for poking the bear because we’re going to have a lot of fun!

  9. Several years ago my wife drew a moose permit for Big Piney “off forest” We got a list of cooperative ranchers from Game and Fish We mailed 23 letters asking for permission to hunt moose with SESE’s. Not one response. We then went and knocked on doors in July. Fifteen negatives. She got her moose on the little bit of public land in that area. I have no sympathy and little respect for land owners who think that they own there deeded land and all of the public land that they can lock up.

  10. Judges must be great poker players. Can you imagine reading the Elk Mountain Ranch claim of $3-7 million and NOT rolling your eyes?

  11. Growing up and hunting in Wyoming we used to be able to hunt anywhere where ranchers didn’t post no trespassing signs. Now if you don’t have a gps and a current map you had better not hunt. A couple of years ago I entered the land I had hunted for years. As I entered land to ask for permission I was accosted by two men and told I was trespassing and they were calling the sherriff to have me arrested. This year I turned seventy-five years old and purchased the pioneer license I finally was able to apply for. I do not own a gps device and am afraid to travel on public county roads for fear I might be trespassing as I transfer between public and private land on the checkerboard lands. I bought my licenses thinking I was donating the fees to the Wyoming Fish and Game for all the years I was able to legally hunt Wyoming. I can’t understand how ranchers can claim wildlife funds for the wildlife that eat their hay while they won’t allow anyone to hunt on their lands. They can stop people on public lands they lease for grazing without allowing the public on public lands.

  12. You would think that a link to Backcountry Hunters and Anglers would have been included in the article?

  13. Any potential damages for loss of property value isn’t the defendants problem or responsibility. The pleading is frivolous and the plaintiff and his attorneys should be sanctioned. Further if the plaintiff doesn’t want corner crossing than I guess the federal government and state government could simply condemn a piece of their land and put a paved road on it to gain access to the PUBLIC property. The cost of that property would be a pittance for the government because the taking would only cost the government fair market value. There would not be any costs associated with any “diminished value”.

  14. The WY Legislature might want to look at Connecticut statute 52-568. “If the party bringing the action or asserting the defense does so with the malicious intent to unjustly vex and trouble the other party, he is liable for triple damages.”

  15. First let’s see the documentation and if they try to do then they showed be prosecuted for falsifying documents. These pricks will get away with it as they can lawyer-up until the cows come home. The system is broken and the oligarchs will make sure they win.

  16. I wish he would sell out and let the place go back to being a Wyoming ranch. I spent 80 years here in Meeteetse and spent a lot of my youth walking all over the country around here. That included private ranches who only demanded that we do no damage, close the gates that were closed behind us, and leave those open that we found open. That is the way it should always work here in Wyoming where neighbors are neighbors and all turn out to help when needed, and help celebrate the times when they are good. We don’t need outlanders changing our way of life.

  17. I wonder what would be the increased annual income to the taxpayer of Elk Mountain’s leased public land if they had to pay market rates of $12-20/acre instead of pennies?

  18. I am sure all this federal land across this ranch was a huge selling point. Tons of land that can be used for free and run like private property. I suspect the land owner sees these federal lands as his. He does not pay property tax on the federal lands and I wonder if he runs cattle on these federal lands and pays for grazing rights. The federal land is not his and never was. This is a rip off all across the west. The Public denied access to public lands!

    1. The same attitude has been demonstrated in southern Nevada by the Bundy cartel and their militia backers. They think that since the family has used those BLM lands for a long time they shouldn’t have to pay grazing fees. That attitude almost developed into a shooting incident in 2014, had it not been for the wisdom of the government to back off.

  19. This needs to be on the next ballot in WY: Remove the ability to landlock property. Besides corner crossings there are pieces of property for sale that the only access is via helicopter (unless you can convince another property owner to grant an easement). If this, trespass of airspace, stands, then anyone extending a hand over a fence line will be guilty of it.

  20. Can you tell me how many of the 22,000 acres cited in the ranch appraisal are in the form of grazing allotments?

  21. Rich land bullies are an American tradition. It’s time Americans stood up for their public properties. How about a counter suit for the public to be compensated for the total value of access denied over the decades from our public lands?

  22. It sounds to me like the ranch owner is looking for a tax dodge if he/it loses the case. There is a deduction for damage to property, although it is arguable whether being forced to comply with the law regarding public access to public lands really constitutes damage to the ranch property. In any event, there are some people who are always scheming to take advantage of whatever situation arises, aren’t there?

  23. It’s very obvious that Mr. Eshelman strongly assumes that he has total control and ownership of Federal lands. With this frame of mind, Eshelman severely overpaid for a South Central Wyoming checkerboard ranch, simple as that. Mr. Eshelman and his ilk do not own, nor have total authoritarian control over Federal lands. Before the purchase of the Elk Mountain Ranch, you would of thought the Eshelman’s biggest and brightest stable of Attorneys would of performed a thorough due diligence before purchasing this property. Apparently, they didn’t and the fact is, 100% of the responsibility for this snafu solely rests on Fred Eshelman. Now, all he can do is lash out with a BS multi-million lawsuit aimed towards four sportsman who legally corner crossed to access PUBLIC land. Not only has Eshelman kicked a sleeping bear, he’s also scared the BeeGeeZus out of the like of Wyoming’s BLM welfare outfit, the Wyoming Stock Growers. These rugged individualist “cowboy’s’ who have long enjoyed the same behavior regarding threats and blocking access to Public lands. This civil case will not be tried in a bought n’ paid for Wyoming kangaroo court, it’s going Federal – where it belongs. The gig soon may be over

    1. Millions of dollars of damage for stepping over a corner? Does “Frivous Litigation” apply here, certainly does!

  24. to educate yourselves on who Mr. Eshelman is, google these subjects: Fred Eshelman / Pharmaceutical Product Development, Inc., (PPD) / the drug Ketek

  25. If the original valuation of the land included exclusive use of land that is not owned, or subject to a long term lease it sounds like Fred paid too much. Also I think the landowner ultimately wanted the civil trial. It’s in a local court he can influence and the burden of proof is lower in civil court.

  26. The landowner just put a price on his blocking access to public land. Having sole access to those public sections is worth $3 to $7 million dollars. That is his financial gain for keeping the public off public land. That is rent extracted on public lands all Americans own and maintain.

    I am sensitive to private property rights. I do not want random people coming into my back yard and picking my tomatoes. I hope others are equally sensitive to public property rights.

  27. WyoFile “journalists” need to step up and explain airspace rights to its readers as it pertains to its readers. Airspace rights are a thing, as is exclusive rights to private property. WF is doing a disservice by not explaining these things.

    Yes, people, you own airspace up to a ceiling that I believe is 400ft. It’s statutorily capped by Uncle Sugar for control of the greater airspace. It’s a much larger issue in urban areas. Also, once an owner is told they must make provisions for an external party’s encroachment, easement, access, etc then the value of the land is impacted. In fact, if this case is decided as such in federal court (it won’t be) then property values across this country collapse just like the Elk Mt ranch had appraised. In turn property tax receipts collapse. It’s a slippery slope, and I hope BHA and others storming private fences for public access understand what they’re toying. I suspect you don’t.

      1. That sets the guidelines for the level at which aircraft can operate, not who owns the airspace. Common law going back to a time prior to the Wright Brothers dictates that ownership is from your surface property below to the core of the east and the sky extending to the heavens. Sorry if that’s inconvenient, but you’re wrong and these out-of-state trespassers have now (I’m sure at the BHA’s behest) gotten themselves into a high stakes game the BHA won’t be able to crowdfund them out of.

  28. So, the value of public hunters hunting state owned wildlife on public land, according to the ranch owner, is between $3.1 million to $7.75 million. Sounds more profitable than raising beef. About $1 million for each elk.

  29. This will be interesting. It going to show this old rich man pushing and bullying anyone he wants. He should be put in his place publicly by a Federal judge. Hopefully, not a Obama appointed one. Or these Missouri boys won’t have a leg to stand on and might be going bankrupt to satisfy an old rich man with nothing better to do.

  30. I don’t see how private landowners can seek damages for not having exclusive use of public land. By definition that land is for the general public to use, not for the financial benefit of a small group of private citizens or corporations. I am a strong proponent property rights. But this includes those of private individuals and the general public. The current situation of public property access being denied to the public, the people that actually own the property, has in my mind been totally un-American!

  31. You have access, you cannot land lock property…now It could be determined by a judge where this access is granted…if both sides do not agree…pharmaceutical money screwing with the public on a whole new level…

  32. Farmers and ranchers comprise less than 2% of the population. Fewer than that have property bordered by public lands. I cannot imagine any compelling argument that justifies this handful of people having exclusive access to more than 8 million acres public lands. If this is legally the case then those lands are actually not public lands at all.

  33. First they should have to the ranch mgr about cutting the corner. A normal trespassing find is sufficient. But cutting the corner should be allow by law with permission first.

  34. I am confused. Does a fella or gal own the air in their backyard? What happens when the air blows into their next door neighbors yard? If they have lots of healthy plants and trees pumping out oxygen, do they get air compensation? Asking for a friend.

  35. I wonder why the the private lands under lying a river such as the nearby North Platte can be accessed by boats and rafts as long as these floaters do not step out of their boats on to this private land. There is no claim of air space protection for these land owners.
    I have never heard a statement of how much air space could be protected by this example on the Elk Mountain Ranch. Numerous article have spoken of this protection but what law or act by state or federal governments have stated what is protected. Do residents surrounding an airport have control of their air space? Do I have control over planes and helicopters flying reasonably low over my land? What if one walks up to a private land holding in the checkerboard area and extends an arm over the fence above private land is this trespassing? The land owners surrounding public lands have for to long claimed control over these public lands. As long as the public accesses these public land without physically touching the private lands it should be allowed.

  36. It’s a sad state of affairs when wealthy landowners say that crossing their air space devalues their property when most of the value is decided by how many acres of public land they hold leases to. If these land owners want to stop public use of public land then how is it fair that they get to do what they want and benefit from public land, why is it only ranchers and oil companies are allowed to lease public land? It maybe time to relook at public land leasing.

  37. someone should be cautious then moving forward if airspace is infinite. Some land owner somewhere then probably “owns” the moon or mars when extending property lines indefinately. The west has a lot of poorly defined trespassing laws on this and river bottoms. time to make changes for the public

  38. These are public Lands that are public property, private land owners are not the controllers of these properties. If they choose to impede access to these properties there should be a law enacted to guarantee access and end all this.

  39. “The exclusive use, possession, and control” of the property. What about commercial/public/military aircraft flying over their land that aren’t hunting public land. Do they own the airspace above their land. Public land is public land and open to the public. If an airplane flies over my residence @ low altitude, can I use that pilot. Airspace is public airspace.

  40. I think we alm should go trespass and hunt elk mountain ranch. F THAT MOTHER TRUCKER and his airspace

  41. This country is being taken by the rich who can buy the law. And government. Look this running our country.

    1. It is my understanding these checker boarded lands were created during the rail road push across the country. They have existed for a very long time. Now hunters and fisherman are running out of room and bringing the situation to light. This scam was done to us a long, long time ago.

  42. This is driven by greedy rich people taken advantage of the land the people of unites states owns to become richer! Fellow Americans not just hunters should go to their states representatives and demand access to all public lands within their states. The government doesn’t have a problem going to landowners and telling them they need buy (or take) your land to build a road across your property for public use. So they shouldn’t have a problem getting the public access to the lands the American people own. The government didn’t have a problem taking land from landowners in LaPlata county CO to get access to lake Night Horse that cut the ranch in have and taken ownership of the only natural water source that the cattle drank from. They are like greedy rich people. They only think about themselves!

  43. I grew up on a 200 acre farm in Oregon..As a city was encroaching the farm trespassing became a growing problem..All I have to say is..people need to respect no trespassing signs and stay the hell off of private property

    1. If it’s public land its public land then no one needs permission to access it when it comes to corner crossing. It’s absurd to think anyone needs to have “permission” from someone who doesn’t actually own the land being accessed in the first place. Hopefully ranchers and the wealthy will be on the losing end of this argument in court.

  44. ATTN I LIVED IN MONTANA AND WYOMING AND I ALSO HUNTED AND FISHED EVERY CHANCE I GOT SOME WAS ON PUBLIC LANDS AND OTHER TIME PRIVATE LANDS AND I WAS NEVER REFUSED PASSAGE OR A CHANCE TO HUNT OR FISH ALL I TAKES IS BEING COURTEIOUS TO THE LAND OWNER AND ASK PERMISSION TO CROSS OR HUNT AND BE AWARE OF HIS RIGHTS AND HOLDINGS AND YOU WILL NEVER GET A REFUSAL TO HUNT OR FISH

  45. Wyoming ranchers have horded public lands for over a hundred years. Ranchers have bullied people that come on BLM lands that were leased for surface grazing claiming it was their property. The problem. The judges and politicians do their bidding as the big money ranchers got them elected. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Unfortunately the people who fought and died for this country will never have access to land that they deserve to enjoy.

  46. I’m 69 and have hunted all my life it’s always disturbed me that any land owner can box in two corners of public land and not allow the public to access the other public land. As a tax payer I’ve spent thousands of dollars for upkeep of all public land but I’m not allowed to use it ! The land owner has full access to it and can use when ever they want to and not pay taxes. If you don’t touch the ground of the land owner how can you be trespassing? Now they say they own all the air space above there land, are they paying taxes on it? And to what height do they own it, if that’s the case no airplane’s or jet’s dare cross it.

  47. Public land is just that. All public land needs to have public access. This case highlights that need. Everyone that hikes,hunts fishes, bird watches,or uses public lands in any way need to work together to get state legislatures,and congress to address this issue to insure that all public lands become publicly accessable. Allowing them to be locked up by the wealthy is the same as having them stolen. The damages claimed in this case clearly show the value being taken from the public,and given to wealthy,often out of state land owners as a free bonus for locking up the surrounding land. This form of government sponsored theft has gone on long enough. Our state and federal government have the power to resolve this issue. The public needs to give them the incentive to use that power. Contact your congressmen or women. Tell them you are tired of being robbed. Use your vote during the next election. There is absolutely no excuse for hundreds of millions of United States citizens to be denied access to the property we own.

  48. I’m behind the hunters in this case, 100%, it should go to Federal court, and set precedent, Millions of acres of public land blocked by private property, is BS, even in states with ASK laws the landowners just ignore it and deny access, with complete disregard. And the fact so w of these landowners make $$$ by providing access to public land I wrong as well. I’ll donate to the go fund me.

  49. I’m interested in the exact amount of steps these hunters walked across the ranch land of is it a simple. + Step over to the others side

  50. It’s pretty plain the owner of the ranch wants to keep all the hunting of deer n elk on the public land for him n family n friends! One of those “I got mine to heck with U” types!

  51. Pretty blatant these property owners are just being jerks! Are we not all Americans? Does it really harm them to allow acess to public land? The remind me of the ranchers who want to graze cattle on public land for pennies and want all wild horses slaughtered so as no competition for their cows! They give good ranchers a bad name!

  52. Hmm, what I don’t get is that if Fred Eshelman argues this particular corner crossing event (with the hunters never physically touching the private parcels) resulted in the millions of lost property value because now, the landlocked public land is, well public land, isn’t he then in turn agreeing that it is legal to corner cross? I think Eshelman is conceding access to the checkerboard public land. Sadly for Eshelman, it’s going to be too gal-dang bad that he severely overpaid for a Wyoming Checkerboard Ranch and sadly for the elite want-to-be’s, such as the welfare BLM cowboys, the chokehold you’ve had over public lands is going to see a sunset

  53. Anyone who has ever studied a BLM map of the west would agree that large tracks of public land supposedly open to public recreation
    are, in actuality, either completely inaccessible or virtually impossible to access because they are wrapped by private property. It has often made me wonder just who’s interest the Bureau of Land Management is protecting. Perhaps the people of the United States should demand an annual royalty of something between $3 and $7 million from landowners like Elk Mountain Ranch for the easy, and often exclusive, access to public lands they enjoy at the expense of the rightful owners…the citizens of the United States.

  54. To me, the ranch owners want to use the public land free. There is NO damage of my stepping from one public lot to another. I did not step on private property, I may have taken a breath of air. Why aren’t planes charged, they also did not step on private land, but use the air space above ?

  55. Being a hunter and not the land owner I believe corner hopping should be allowed. It’s not right for a land owner to buy half the land yet control it all.

  56. I think that if this case is decided for the Elk Ranch the sportsmen and hunters should band together have a raffle for free helicopter transportation for 3 or 4 groups of hunters to access this public land and any other public land blocked by the Elk Ranch.

  57. That’s just ridiculous, that rich land owners can keep public hunters off public grounds. I hope the court sides with the hunters !!

  58. Hope the rancher gets what I believe it deserves: a loss in court, plus damages, including ALL court costs. This is one of the more nonsensical games the cow farmer bums have tried to pull. Their day is over. Their contribution to the national beef supply is next-to-nothing, for all the bawling to the contrary by livestock associations. Plus, I am sick of subsidizing them with low grazing fees on public lands. Wyoming should be ashamed of them, not dumbly looking toward them with pride.

  59. Wow. Go Hunters! Nobody owns the air space. I will personally help BHA and anybody else fight the Elk mnt ranch and any other bullys that try to keep folks frm accessing our public lands.We the people own the public lands. Bring on this fight!

  60. Question. Has anyone located the actual property pin? Fence lines usually are not the actual property line. I believe the fence cannot actually sit on property line. Just wondering when last survey was done.

    1. Generally, though not sure of Wyoming’s law, a fence line utilized by two parties (BLM and Elk mt ranch) as a boundary will be considered the property line by mutual use. One party can disagree and perform a pin stake survey and possibly move the boundary, but this is usually left to smaller tracts and can often find not so favorably for the one contesting. In other words, mutual use (fence line) is agreement of boundary by default

  61. I hope the land owners self percieved importance is soon over ridden by reality. Sounds like a petulant asshole

  62. This court case concerns me that a wealth rancher can control and land lock a piece of federal property and use it for his or his friends hunting paradise. I thought it was illegal to land lock a pice of property. Idaho is having some of the same problems as other western states are having. Were wealthy people are coming to Idaho and buying large ranches and putting up no hunting and trespassing signs and trying to keep the public from accessing federal or state lands. This is a big problem.

  63. These land locked public properties need to be made accessable not necessarily for vehicles or horses, but at least by foot so everyone can enjoy it. Land owners like to keep it for grazing, not right!

  64. How is it that public land can be land locked!? If it were private land then it couldn’t be land locked as to deny the owners access by road. Why wasn’t there a like clause in place when these public lands were cut off by private land owners. I can see from the point of private owners that by land locking those areas gives THEM the only access so they can treat those public lands as their own and using it for whatever purpose they desire. I’m not sure about elsewhere, but in Georgia you can’t land lock a piece of property that belongs to someone else you’re required by law to give up an easement. It seems the federal government would be able to settle and prevent these ridiculous lawsuits simply by creating easements for public access. Otherwise, any and all Americans afoot or on the ground are denied access to land set aside by congress for PUBLIC use.

  65. Personally I don’t believe that the hunters did anything wrong. And corner crossing should be perfectly legal to access not only public property but your own if it happens to be Land locked. I think that that big land Barrons of the Elk mountain ranch should leave well enough alone.

  66. Get “Goliath’s” Billy McBride involved. He could talk with the big bully rancher(s) involved; who are they influencing and possibly what laws are ‘they’ breaking, if any.

  67. is flying over “private property” also trespassing? how far do air rights extend? how many sections in Wyo are effectively blocked from public access by the corner crossing prohibition?

  68. How can the airspace be private, especially in Wyoming where the wind blows continuously on the mountains? The air there now will be in Cheyenne within an hour!

  69. A mega rich eastern guy, Karen Budd-Falen and Jim Magana, no conflict of interests there. This is a Federal issue, ie Fedral lands should be a federal court, with a federal law, the unlawful includes act and some common sense.

  70. The rancher is saying that the public land is his private domain. BS it is public. I lived and hunted in WY. for over 30 years. You see a lot of this.

  71. There is no air space boundary my
    grandad let people cross his ranch to school sections, ranchers have no right to stop access unless peopltfire tear up land,harass livestock’s personally have been hunting at area 11 and have had guards at the forest fence line say u can’t come in here when Another big outfit owned the land.webthe people have the right to fish and hunt,backpack,hike on public land we pay for it THERE IS NO AIR SPACE

  72. Stepping over airspace should not be trespassing, nor does it cause millions of dollars in damages unless the value of the property is based on keeping public land as your own private land. Public land is public land. Ranchers don’t own it just because their deeded land touches it. It’s our right as American citizens to have access to the land that belongs to us. Ranchers should have no control over who accesses it, when, or how, seeing as how it is not theirs to control in the first place. The hunters never touched foot on private land. If landowners want exclusive rights and the ability to legally keep people off of land, they should have to buy it and not steal it from American citizens. They paid for the private land, not the public land next door. We should not let ranchers and the ultra-rich illegally control our public lands. Let’s support these hunters, and let that man from North Carolina know we won’t tolerate ultra-rich land barons from out of state telling us we can’t access what is ours.

    1. If the landowners “own” the airspace at the corners, are they paying property tax on all that airspace? Perhaps if they received a tax bill for it, their tune would change rather quickly!

  73. A couple things come to mind when I read this article. I wonder if the ranch pays taxes on their ranch value of $31.3 million ? If the hunters lose the case ,I would hope the government would close all access with no admittance. A high fence on the government side would solve the problem with the ranch. With a wildlife sanctuary in place it would keep the ranch from getting any access.

  74. What a bunch of B. S. . It is crazy they can free range their cattle and sheep on open range and pay little to do so . But what about the damage they do to our open land. Time we got a good Lawyer to recover all the damage .

  75. Hunters should not be allowed on private property or air space above it. The rancher is with in his rights to sue. I hope he gets is money from the trespassers.

    1. Why is it legal in Wyoming to cross the private lands occurring under the nearby North Platte River as long as one does not stop the boat to stand on the river bed or shore. Compare this to the present case where no water covers private land and the adjacent land owner clams the right to control the private air space. How can there be no case for air space in one situation but a claim for supremacy in the other case. Check it out.

  76. QUOTE: ?Budd-Falen contends the issue should be settled by the Wyoming Supreme Court, not in the federal venue.” Sure ya do, Karen. You and the rest of the Wyoming Stockgrowers aka BLM welfare bums would love to have this case tried in a kangaroo court with the odds stacked in your favor. This issue going to the Fed’s scares the bejesus out of you types.

  77. The continued bullying of recreationist trying to access so called “land locked” BLM, as well as forest service lands, shows that “money makes might”. The ranchers are able to utilize land they do not own for grazing as well as allow whoever they choose access to hunt and fish. I think access interest groups need to push a bill through in each state prohibiting open range grazing to any rancher in any landlocked BLM, or public land. Also no person denying access to public land shall be entitled to use or authorize access to such lands. Many of these ranches give access to friends and family, as well as people who benefit their own situation, which is the equivalent to illegal outfitting on public land. Often landowner tags are sold/gifted to people with various interests in these ranches. Allowing ranchers to charge a trespass fee to access BLM or other public land through their land is another example of illegal outfitting. Cattlemen’s associations, ranchers, and farmers are powerful entities that can use wealth and power for control. The ” Yellowstone” scenario needs to end. I’ve hunted near ranches and been harassed by ranchers, and had then interfere with hunts on BLM lands, it is a ridiculous situation that the average Joe cannot afford to fight, and shouldn’t have to.

  78. This is bullshit . The rich think they are better than anyone else. We all jumped fences when hunting. We don’t destroy people’s property. A real hunter respects the land rivers.

    1. Are you sure about that🤔 In MT you can hunt nearly any place you like if you pay!!
      Just try to be sweet and ask to hunt land locked public land near Dillon MT without paying and see how that goes!

  79. The problem with some of these out of state land owners is that they don’t have Godly or Wyoming values. They are so selfish they can’t stand even a corner crosser. Here in Wyoming we care about others and try to be friendly and good neighbors.

  80. Sounds like Eshelman overpaid for his “ranch”….this is his problem alone…yet he’s trying to lay blame to 4 Missouri hunters who never once stepped foot on his land. I’d say Eshelman and his ilk devalue Wyoming. Wyoming Stock Growers (welfare cattle barons) ought to stay out of it