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Long Time Needed

Written by Dennis Sun

    Early last week our Wyoming state elected officials were sworn in, so that tells us that the Wyoming legislature will be getting geared up next week.  We are proud of those who are in office now. Remember, the election is over, and we support those who are in office.

While there are not a lot of issues dealing with agriculture in this session, there are two important issues, and neither one of them comes out of the House or Senate Ag Committees. One is Senate File (SF) 12, Trespassing to Collect Data. This bill is sponsored by the Interim Joint Judiciary Committee and is a bill that ranchers and farmers have needed for some time.

It stems from a lawsuit that a number of ranchers in western Wyoming filed against an employee of Western Watersheds Project who they claim trespassed on their lands to collect water samples and other monitoring data.  The ranchers claim that unless the employee had used a helicopter to get to the public lands, he had to drive or walk across private lands to get there, and because he didn’t have permission to cross the deeded lands from the landowners, that was a trespass. In Western Watershed’s response, they almost admitted to the trespass, but said that, given the importance of getting the water samples and the condition of the streams, trespassing should have not been an issue.  So, in their eyes, “kind of” trespassing is alright.  

As we all know, one is either trespassing or not trespassing. As I understand the law, there are no grey areas nor are there degrees of trespassing. The bad part about this issue is that landowners need this law to really protect themselves and back up their case.  

As landowners, we have always had to deal with trespassers, especially where public lands are intermingled.  Most of us have had issues with seismographers, hunters and outfitters, rock hounds and fishermen. In the past, a number of landowners have just shared their lands with others for whatever reason, but now there are some who think trespassing is alright. They just lie their way out of it. As a result, others think it is ok to cross private lands to get to public lands, and in the past, we may have let them.  

Today’s world is more sophisticated. We in Wyoming should learn from states like Texas, where one just doesn’t even think about trespassing on another’s land. You just don’t do it.  And you really don’t do it to gather water samples to put that rancher out of business.

Another bill that is coming up but hasn’t been published as of yet is a bill to place someone in the Office of State Lands and Investments to assist landowners and energy companies in the state to work together with issues such as pipeline conflicts. If you have a pipeline, underground phone line or any issue that you have given a right of way or access, this will be a big help. Landowners have gotten a lot smarter lately over pipelines. Instead of dealing with a company landman who flunked charm school a number of times, landowners have grouped together and dealt with the corporate office.   

We welcome both these pieces of legislature.