A map filed among court papers purports to show where one hunter marked a GPS waypoint on Elk Mountain Ranch land, depicted in light green. (U.S. District Court)

The owner of Elk Mountain Ranch has dropped the last remaining claim in a civil corner-crossing trespass suit — an allegation that a Missouri hunter stepped on his property well away from the contested corners.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court on June 1, an attorney for Iron Bar Holdings and Fred Eshelman told U.S. Chief District Judge Scott Skavdahl that the ranch owner is withdrawing the trespass claim associated with a digital marker known as Waypoint 6. That would preclude the need for a trial later this month.

Eshelman had sued four hunters claiming they trespassed while passing through the airspace above a corner of his property. Skavdahl ruled last week that the men did not trespass while corner crossing — stepping from one piece of public land to another without touching adjacent private property, all arranged in a checkerboard pattern of land ownership.

Skavdahl’s summary-judgment ruling does not preclude Eshelman from appealing the corner-crossing decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, an action that the hunters’ attorney said he expects. 

In the course of the civil suit, which at one point sought $7.75 million in damages, Iron Bar and Eshelman alleged that, in addition to violating ranch airspace at several common corners with public land, one hunter also set foot elsewhere on the Carbon County Ranch.

The allegation arose following discovery of “Waypoint 6” — a location on Elk Mountain marked by hunter Zach Smith using the digital onX Hunt app. The waypoint proves that Smith was on the ranch, Eshelman’s lawyers contended.

Hunters say the waypoint could have been made from anywhere. In that Waypoint 6 was far from any of the several corners the hunters crossed in 2020 and 2021, Skavdahl separated disagreement over it from the larger corner-crossing issue.

Ruling in favor of the hunters regarding corner crossing, Skavdahl left the Waypoint 6 disagreement to be decided at a trial scheduled for later this month.

But he also ruled that Eshelman, if he were to win a Waypoint 6 argument in front of a jury, would be entitled to nominal damages only. That, the judge said, would amount to no more than $100.

“After considering the matter,” Eshelman’s attorney Greg Weisz wrote, “Plaintiff Iron Bar Holdings, LLC has determined the interest of judicial economy and justice warrant Plaintiff withdrawing the claims related to the Waypoint 6 issue and possible physical surface trespass by any of the Defendants on the Plaintiffs real property,”

The withdrawal obviates the need for a trial, Weisz said.

The two sides also agreed to pay their own attorneys’ fees, according to the filing. Other costs, however, would be subject to Skavdahl’s final ruling on the civil suit and also limited to what’s allowed under court rules.

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. It seems what people don’t understand is the fact that the railroad checker board was established back in 1860s meaning the rail road could go anywhere in 20 miles in checker board to get coal without the government red tape. Also many spots in Wyoming a big sheep rancher would claim areas and give it to the state so others couldn’t claim the spots in the Taylor homestead act. So the land lock public ground weren’t magically just land locked they where landlocked was way before this case. As public land isn’t up for sale to make more land lock public property. Many of public and private grounds are not fenced so without gps you can be trespassing without knowing it.

  2. It’s pretty simple solution to all this problem. Stop land owners from land locking public land and securing easements to all the trails instead of them claiming lands my life’s worth in the service and taxes paid for the public land they think they own and control…..

  3. The thing that needs to happen here is for the legislature to provide some kind of guidance to allow corner crossing without packing your own ladder. Perhaps a 3 foot easement at the corner apex–18 inches on each side. Corners need to be clearly marked as to make them more easily locatable. If a boundary is unfenced, then t-posts could mark the line between public and private. With that in place, the rights of the landowner could be protected and the both the public and landowner would be aware of the limits of public land. It would also make it much easier for law enforcement to determine if trespass has taken place. On a large ranch, I’m convinced that in many cases the landowner isn’t exactly sure where his property ends if it’s not fenced.

    1. I agree. In Wyoming a lot of fencing is 75 or 100 years old and was not surveyed in. Our ranch fencing was way off once surveyed.

    2. I wouldn’t count on any help from the Wyoming legislature in this matter. I’m sure Magagna and the WSGA are already on the horn with reps and senators trying to figure out a way to counter this court ruling. You know, the group that contributes 2% of the state GDP. They’re really big economically to the state , hehe….

  4. As an American tax payer I applaud the Not Guilty finding in the criminal trespassing case as well as the hunters prevailing in the civil suit. The landowner was being selfish and rediculous in his multi million dollar claim to damages.
    I hope future hunters and land owners take note. Be a steward of the land and resources. The public land is for everyone.

    To the BLM get those easements going.

  5. Here’s what I didn’t understand about the rancher’s “damages” case: He claims that if the border-crossing practice becomes the new legal policy, the value of his lands are dramatically diminished (to the tune of almost $8 million, in this case). Therefore, he wants the hunters who dared to challenge his bogus private property rights claim to foot the bill for the newly established legal policy? How on earth does that work? Or have I missed something crucial about his claim?

  6. Oh this hunting season is found to see a lot of remote cameras at work, this isn’t going to end well, for anyone. I can see the remote wireless going up now, what a fiasco. I can see cut lines being cut on the perimeter, oh this isn’t going away anytime soon, and game retrieval is going to be an issue next.

  7. Once again.
    The BLM has always had authority to obtain administrative access or for public access across private property to public land. If you want more access to public land, get involved in BLM planning opportunities and be specific. To say you want access without knowing where the need exist is too general. Thats where you force the issue. The BLM will not do it on their own initiative.

    Another thing to remember is that gaining access is does not necessarily have to mean vehicle access. For example, it could be just a 6′ wide foot trail at a corner. In this case, a legal foot trail would have been all that was needed to get to hunt public land. Hunting can be a reason to justify that the BLM obtain access. Ranchers are not always the problem, so don’t blame them for everything.

  8. All the right decisions were made, It’s about time. I just hope Corner Crossers respect the Corners and the private lands respectively.

    1. Absolutely! This issue of trespassing has an ugly history. And a number of so called hunters don’t respect public ground regulations. Corner crossing needs to be addressed by the state legislature and or the BLM. This decision, in my opinion is spot on. But without clear guidelines and enforced regulations hunters may still be adrift as to what is legal access.

  9. The reference to the “Unlawful Inclosures Act” , a law still in effect after all those years, shows the continued integrity of Wyoming law ! Now, it’s time to move forward with establishment of large scale land swaps, voluntary or eminent domain, to access OUR public land ! Let’s end the publicly funded private hunting preserves that now exist. I demand unfettered access to my public land. Remember the verse, “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land…” ?

  10. I appreciate that the hunters don’t want to drag this out any longer than necessary, but considering the ridiculousness of the lawsuit, I was kind of hoping they would stick it to Eschelman and at least get the attorney’s fees recovered.

  11. Well, this whole fiasco has not worked out well for the welfare cowboy and others, including outfitters who’ve been leveraging and monopolizing public lands. They bullying days are over and now we the public need to join forces and either have you pay fair market value for your grazing leases or get your livestock off our land. Oh, tell Fred Eshelman thanks for pushing this issue that ultimately resulted in shooting himself in the foot.

  12. interesting that the agreement included each party was responsible for their own attorney’s fee’s.

    pending a appeal look’s like the hunters won,corner crossing will be allowed on private property,& before you know it,atv’s,pick-up trucks towing mobile homes,
    homeless will be overtaking private property with impunity.

    1. Ridiculous. Any reasonable person reading the results of this will know that a FOOT crossing is the only method short of flying that will be allowed. ANY other crossing by vehicles etc will be trespassing and will probably be treated as harshly as possible in the courts. You have a very poor opinion of the men and women sportsmen that will be corner crossing if the final verdict makes it legal.

    2. Paul Burke, judging from your asinine comments regarding this story, you must be one of Eshelman’s lackeys. Pretty hard to lug a mobile home over a corner, Paul. Anyway, will be thinking of you next time I corner cross onto MY public land down at Elk Mtn Ranch. It’s over, Eshelman, take the next U.P. train outta’ Carbon County. Thanks in advance

    3. When the “homeless” that own trucks, atv’s and mobile homes invade private property then the land owner has every RIGHT to have them removed.

    4. Mr. Burke. You are going to extreme here. Now would you like to make a bet that won’t happen? How about $100. Editor here can hold the money. As soon as you send a photo in of that happening. You win the pot.

    5. This is a civil case and is therefore not precedent setting. The legal case was dismissed, so this has little to no impact on future cases of corner crossing.

      1. To the contrary, at a minimum Judge Skavdahl’s decision will be the guiding light for any future arguments about corner crossing. Prosecutors will hesitate to bring trespassing charges against others who conduct themselves in the same manner. Additionally, the dismissal of the remaining claim permits the plaintiff to appeal this case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals much quicker, if that is its/his intent.

        1. Larry B. Jones, if you are who I think you are, then you have professional insight on this subject. A question – is this precedent applicable to all federal lands in all states, or just in Wyoming?

          1. A decision by a federal trial judge generally governs only the parties involved in that lawsuit and the issues in that lawsuit. (We’re not talking about a case where a federal district judge enters a nationwide injunction). Since neither the BLM nor any other federal agency were parties, it is not binding on them. What this case was all about were claims by the plaintiff that the defendants trespassed on its/his property based on Wyoming’s trespass statutes. But it does have a persuasive value in other cases. Judge Skavdahl’s reasoning could help convince another judge (either state or federal) if they were faced with similar circumstances. If there is an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, (which must be filed within 30 days after the entry of the final judgment in this case) the decision of the appellate court would still only be about Wyoming’s trespass statutes and how they intersect (pun intended) with the checkerboard ownership in Wyoming. It would be persuasive authority in all states within the 10th Circuit, which are Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma to the extent that their trespass laws are the same or substantially similar. It could then be appealed to the US Supreme Court. But any decision would also likely only involve Wyoming’s trespass statutes and how they affect the checkerboard ownership. While this case can certainly have a significant impact on similar cases across the country, the issues were limited to Wyoming’s trespass statutes and what rights Wyoming law protects in situations like this one.

    6. Yes, Mr. Burke; it is interesting that the agreement required each party to pay their own attorney fees! Usually, a plaintiff who looses a civil case is required to pay all attorney’s fees. Judge Skavdahl was being very generous, especially considering that Mr. Eshelman was in clear violation of the Unlawful Enclosures Act and for many years enjoyed exclusive access and controlled entry to Public Lands.

      1. Actually, in most cases the parties bear their own costs, including attorneys fees. In Wyoming, attorneys fees are awarded to the other side only when there is a statute providing for their award or if there is a contractual provision. I do not believe either of those are present in this case. A court can award attorneys fees as a sanction against a party, but that is not typical and nothing in this case suggests the Judge was likely to do so.

        1. larry, great insight !
          question ?
          are amicus briefs allowed in the appeal ?
          if they are,can the list be expanded beyond the list established
          by the circuit court judge ?

          again,thanks for adding to the discussion !

    7. Paul, I mean Fred,

      Are you aware that there are already public lands that you can access?

      Also; Homeless taking over Elk Mountain? Have you been to Elk Mountain? They would be blown to Nebraska within a day.