Corner-Locked Lands

Oct 2021: Four hunters were charged with criminally trespassing on the Elk Mountain Ranch in Wyoming. The curious thing was that everyone, including the prosecution, agreed that the hunters had never set foot on the ranch. However, the owner of the ranch alleged that the bodies of the hunters had briefly passed through the airspace immediately above his ranch. explains:

What they had done was place an A-frame ladder across an intersection of property boundaries, the location where four parcels of land meet at a point. They climbed up one side of the ladder from public land, and down the other side of the ladder, stepping kitty-corner onto a different parcel of public land. But in doing so, their bodies also crossed through the airspace of the other two parcels meeting at that point, which were private.

The underlying issue was that of corner-locked public lands. Throughout the western states many public and private lands border each other in a checkerboard pattern. As a result, the only way to get to some public lands is via the corner. But you can't step over the corner from one public land to another without simultaneously having part of your body pass through airspace that's private property. And many private property owners strongly object to people doing this.

Some 8.3 million acres of public lands are estimated to be "corner-locked" in this way.

A jury eventually found the hunters not guilty of criminal trespass. But the owner of the ranch then filed a civil suit against them, which is still ongoing. He's seeking $9.39 million in damages for their violation of the airspace above his ranch.

More info:
     Posted By: Alex - Thu Jan 12, 2023
     Category: Geography and Maps | Lawsuits

There have been stories over the years about people laying claim to the heavens over aerial rights, extending to anything as far as can be seen. Usually those claims come to nothing.
Posted by KDP on 01/12/23 at 12:08 PM
Why would using the ladder make a difference? We may see them again on the Darwin Awards.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 01/12/23 at 01:02 PM
Virtual -- Using them like portable stiles. I like long walks in the countryside, but at my age, climbing over a fence would qualify me for the Fail-of-the-Week viral video.
Posted by Phideaux on 01/12/23 at 02:17 PM
The point being made can be clarified by using Four Corners as an example, the rancher states that the hunters cannot step from Utah to New Mexico without passing over his/her land Colorado… this seems pretty hokie, as the jury found.

I believe in property rights, but I support the jury upholding the right of citizens to access public lands; I also think the law should probably spell this type of easement out, so this can be kept out of court.

Finally, the hunters might show they stepped over Arizona and not Colorado on their way from Utah to New Mexico, so the rancher has no case.
Posted by SD Navy Vet on 01/12/23 at 07:36 PM
Phideaux, a stile takes you over a horizontal barrier; that's not the case here. We're saying the property boundaries extend vertically without limit. Stepping from Utah to New Mexico doesn't work because it's not where your feet touch ground – your body somewhere must pass over Arizona and/or Colorado. Why would it matter how far above ground you are when your body passes thru the intersection?

Or, consider the property boundaries to be solid walls instead of being invisible. You are standing in Utah, looking at the intersection. You cannot even see any of New Mexico, not to mention go there. And you can ride a balloon as high as you like, but you never will be able to see any of New Mexico.

b/t/w, Is it "kitty-corner" or "catty-corner"?

Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 01/13/23 at 03:07 PM
Virtual -- they're using them as stiles. The fact they don't avoid the airspace problem is why those four were charged with airspace violation.

A balloon would work if it went over 500 feet up. Laws, regulations, and treaties generally hold 500 feet as the bottom of legal airspace for planes. Balloons usually obey that but try to stay at 1,000 feet over even sparsely populated areas to avoid legal issues.
Posted by Phideaux on 01/13/23 at 05:46 PM
@Virtual: neither. It's cater-corner, that is, quater- a.k.a four-corner.

Also, it's (sorry to be repetitive) a specifically USA disease. None of this would fly in Europe, or even in England. For one, we just wouldn't have the geometry; but also, we just wouldn't make this an issue, or rather, we'd make it a different kind of issue altogether.
Posted by Richard Bos on 01/14/23 at 07:58 AM
Phideaux, I know they're using the A-frame ladder as a stile. It's the fact that using a stile here is inappropriate/dumb is why I said we may see them again on the Darwin Awards. Please continue to use a stile when you encounter a fence; we don't want to see you on the You-Tube follies. Or fall-ies.

cater-corner [ kat-i-kawr-ner ] Cater-corner gets its first element from the Middle French noun quatre, meaning “four,” which English speakers modified to cater and applied to the four-dotted side of a die. Eventually the variants kitty-corner and catty-corner, which are now the more common forms, developed. Despite all appearances, these terms bear no etymological relation to our feline friends.

Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 01/14/23 at 08:57 AM

Separate issue, but it mentions that Wyoming state agencies favor corner crossing.
Posted by SD Navy Vet on 01/20/23 at 12:32 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.