CHEYENNE—It’s not hard to find misleading “no trespassing” and “private property” signs erected on public land in Wyoming, a tactic used to dissuade people from trekking onto property they can legally access
Soon, however, adjoining private landowners and others who post that type of erroneous signage could face big fines. House Bill 147 – Unlawful trespass signage-taking of wildlife, which is sailing through the Legislature, would make such deceit a crime.
Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie), the measure’s sponsor, told fellow lawmakers last week the bill stems from personal experience.
“You are following your OnX hunt app and you know exactly where you should be and can be, and suddenly run into a ‘No Trespass,’” Provenza told the Senate Travel, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Committee Feb. 9.
As proposed, HB 147 would live among the statutes governing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and would be enforceable by wardens and other state-employed peace officers.
Hunters, anglers and the advocacy groups that represent them have lined up in support of the measure. Misleading private property signage is common enough on the landscape that hunters identified it as a top issue, according to a Backcountry Hunters and Anglers member survey that lobbyist Sabrina King referenced.
“It’s been interesting working on this bill because every person I talk to has a story about this: of encountering a sign that they believe is an improper ‘No Trespass’ sign,” King told the Senate committee.
Wyoming Wildlife Federation’s government affairs director, Jessi Johnson, lobbied the committee in support of HB 147.
“The de-escalation of conflict between hunters and landowners is something that’s at the forefront of a lot of our minds right now,” Johnson said.
The goal, Johnson said, is to transform the dialogue from the “trespass vortex” that Wyoming seems to be stuck in to a cooperative conversation about public access.
House Bill 147 has encountered almost zero opposition from lawmakers during the session. It passed the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee in an 8-0 vote, and passed its third reading on the House floor 61-1. Rep. Bill Allemand (R-Midwest) stood alone in voting nay. The legislation also breezed through its Senate committee hearing 5-0, then was met favorably in its first two Senate floor readings.
Even Wyoming’s agricultural lobby, which has pressed for tighter trespass laws, has received HB 147 somewhat favorably.
“We are comfortable with this bill …,” testified Jim Magagna, representing the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Wyoming Wool Growers Association. “There are instances where state land in particular is perhaps being improperly posted, and I believe this addresses it.”
Language added to the bill via amendment would give sign-posters a chance to remove the misleading signage before being fined. If they don’t comply, steep penalties could follow.
Under Wyoming statute, interfering with someone who’s lawfully hunting or fishing is punishable with a misdemeanor citation that comes with fines of up to $10,000. Subsequent violations can net fines of up to $50,000.
Unless it’s laid back, HB 147’s third and final reading on the Senate floor will take place Tuesday. If it again receives a favorable vote and the House concurs with any potential changes, it will then go to Gov. Mark Gordon for his signature.
What if the land is posted correctly — does the owner not have the right to post a sign on his land? Owners of land should be able to keep people off of their land if that is what they want.
The Allemands are a ranching family and have a different look at this than law abiding sportsman will have. Many ranchers are guilty of doing this. I have run across them doing this way too many times! I hope it passes!
Used to be (50 years ago) if a rancher stopped a lawful hunter from exercising his/her hunting privileges on a BLM lease, said rancher could lose their lease. Don’t know if that rule has changed.
I’ve heard a couple of realtors chuckle and mention tongue in cheek that rural/agricultural fence lines are rarely on a actual property line. So I’m curious if there is some forgiveness or latitude to landowners that purchased their property with fence lines already in place. Perhaps a small acreage person should be able to discern what is or is not properly fenced, but what about those with larger new purchases?
I’m a small 40ac plot owner and fences were in place at time of purchase. And to be honest I simply took the fence line at face value and assumed the land was accurately fenced. (But I think it’s off in places.) It would seem to be harder for larger owners of pre-fenced properties.
Thank you, this may not seem important or necessary, but it has gotten out of control.
Will the Republicans continue to bar access to our public lands? Will the Republicans continue to try to sell off all of our public lands to the rich and give the remainder to Russia in gratitude for all of their help in electing Trump and themselves? If you do not believe me, please see the current Wyoming Republican platform. Only you can prevent the Republicans from stealing and destroying our public lands!
What generally happens when they post the land wrong. They will also generally call game warden or sheriff out. The law. Generally will back the land owner even going so far as to write trespassing ticket. Then the DA won’t look at and toss the ticket. Causing great expense to person in the “right”. It just a good ole boy network generating money for the “system”.
Won’t help a thing up in the Cody Fish & Game region. Here, wardens support the big landowners and will do nothing about hunter harassment or false signage. They’ll do it one better and turn the screws on the ones harassed and pretty much operate as private henchman for the rich and powerful. Must get some sidekick money, i dunno
It’s about time! Public lands mean public access. MT worked for nearly two decades to finalize a very workable outcome for all stakeholders and tribal members for public land access for every type of outdoor recreation. It was working until their new governor was elected and has since began stacking the deck to privatize hunting. Let’s not have that happen in WY!
Thank you for the great reporting Mike and for the wisdom of Rep Provenza and the legislators supporting HB147.
Also want to thank Backcountry Hunters and Anglers lobbyist MS King for her/their fierce support of issues that matter a lot in the hearts of most Wyoming people. A great step foreword for all of Wyoming!
Will this mean that the “big bluff” is now over? The Alabama born with a silver spoon in his mouth that migrated to Thermopolis and bought himself a ranch (same dude who rode around the Worland BLM office on a mule for 30 straight days) was posting up a bunch of public lands then had the audacity to call up the law dogs when someone accessed -their- lands. Not only did we all not like you from the git go, you taught us to despise you. Too bad this law wasn’t kicked in gear waaaaaay back when…….
Bout time. I’ve run into this every year ,land I know is public and it’s Posted no Hunting.I wish we could access land locked BLM and state land. Maybe an access road down the fence line , I sure wouldn’t have To go very far to fill my tag.
This is good bill. I my self have had experiences with this. One John Wayne want to be actually pulled pistol on myself and 13 year old son. We were in the right. Jayne Wayne learned hard lesson on second encounter. These Ranchers/farmers go to great lengths to protect their private hunting reserves.
It is certainly not fair to falsely claim property is private when it is not. It’s kind of like impersonating a law officer and should be treated as such. If someone is trespassing then they should be made aware of this and repeat offenders arrested. If someone is falsely keeping a citizen from walking on public land where it is allowed then they should be arrested also and fined at least $10,000. People that enjoy the out-of-doors are losing too much access in many ways. Illegal actions should be punished.
But what about corner crossing in the “checkerboard” parts of the state? Is the legislature going to make a very clear law saying that stopping such crossing is, in fact, illegal and that crossing a corner is absolutely not trespass?
State funded access points could be mandated and set up at corner crossings. I would think the cost would not be large and various wildlife agencies and or hunter groups could and would help fund them.
Exactly right, Mr. Skow, in both posts. My uncle very nearly killed a rancher who drew down on my dad while on public land hunting elk. My uncle told him to drop the weapon. The rancher did not even see my uncle prior to him speaking. My uncle was a Deputy Sheriff by profession in another county. The rancher believed no one could access that land. He was wrong. Fortunately he was not dead wrong.