Western ‘checkerboard’ lands to be discussed at Western Ag & Environmental Law Conference

Wyoming attorneys Ryan Semerad and Karen Budd-Falen will present the session.

Press release from University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Drew Viguet

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Fast facts:

  • Session at NALC’s Western Conference focuses access, private property
  • Karen Budd-Falen, Ryan Semerad presenting

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Congressional action in the 1800s divided large swaths of land in the American West into squares of public and private property, creating both a checkerboard pattern and confusion over what’s legal when it comes to land use.

The companion to this checkerboarding is an issue known as “corner crossings,” where people pass through multiple types of lands while traveling from one destination to another. This raises questions for landowners who may own land that is mixed into the checkerboard.

“All sorts of questions arise with checkerboard lands and corner crossings,” Ryan Semerad, managing member of Wyoming law firm Fuller & Semerad, LLC, said. “Can strangers walk through your fields and rangelands? Can landowners keep the public off public lands and out of waterways? Is ‘corner crossing’ legal, illegal, or something else?”

According to onX, Wyoming has 2.44 million acres of corner-locked lands, which it defines as “Public lands that is inaccessible to the general public because there is no public road or trail to get there AND because the legality of corner-crossing remains unclear.” This is the most of any state. Following Wyoming is Nevada with 1.93 million acres, which is then followed by Arizona and Montana.

Semerad is presenting a session on public access and private property in the West at the Western Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference alongside Karen Budd-Falen, senior partner and owner of Wyoming’s Budd-Falen Law Offices. The two will discuss issues of access, navigability and private property rights permeating the West’s checkerboard lands. The session is titled “Streambeds, Game Trails, & Corner Crossings: Public Access & Private Property.”

Full press release available here.