Crossing from one parcel of public land to another in Colorado creates a private-property conundrum that’s proven tough to fix |

Crossing from one parcel of public land to another in Colorado creates a private-property conundrum that’s proven tough to fix

House Bill 1066 would allow lawful passage between public land parcels bordering private property, settling a decades-old conundrum in the West. But it’s meeting skepticism.

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun

Bishops can do it on a chessboard. But not hunters. 

The tidy squares that define ownership of land in the U.S. have created a dilemma as recreational explorers move between parcels of public land that touch in a pinpoint corner bordered by private land. While it’s possible to cross from one of those public parcels to the next without touching the private dirt, corner-crossers do technically move through the air space of that privately owned land. The question of trespassing in that air is the crux of the corner-crossing conundrum. (If that sounds familiar, there’s a similar conflict in Colorado swirling around trespassing in water flowing through private land.)

A fence, and a sign warning against trespassing, marks a boundary of the Cielo Vista Ranch in Costilla County.
Luna Anna Archey, Special to The Colorado Trust

In Wyoming, hunters are embroiled in a lawsuit filed by a rancher who contends the hunters’ corner-crossing between public parcels has reduced the value of his adjacent private land by millions of dollars. Lawmakers in Wyoming, Montana and Nevada have tried and failed to create rules that allow recreational users — mostly hunters and anglers — to step into public land bordered by private property. A recent report by navigation app maker onX and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership identifies 8.3 million acres of public land that are “corner-locked.” 

A Colorado lawmaker is lined up to help, hoping her legislation, House Bill 1066, can allow people to walk from one corner of public land to another corner at the point where the two parcels meet. Rep. Brandi Bradley, a Republican from Littleton, has proposed a law that would eliminate the possibility of trespassing charges against corner crossers and prevents landowners from erecting fences within 5 feet of the corner. 

“For me the impetus here is to balance property rights with public access and I think that can be done,” Bradley said, who suggested her legislation would help property owners more clearly define the parameters of trespassing without needing to argue about infringement of airspace above private dirt. “They are not winning those air space cases. I think this will help make black and white a really gray issue. This will help better protect private property rights.”

Read the full story at The Colorado Sun.

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