Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wyo. county pursues prescriptive easement over private property
Casper City Manager John Patterson stood at the courtroom’s podium in front of a full house during a Natrona County commissioners’ work session in late September, asking the commission to consider consequences before going to court to settle a dispute over easement rights with Casper Mountain landowner Howard Christman. “I don’t think you’re going to want to ask the question about prescriptive easements,” Patterson said at the work session. “Because the risk would be too great if you’re not right.” Patterson said he spoke that day not as a city official or government pundit, but as a trail user — a Natrona County resident concerned that, should a court decision deny the public’s right to use a private road in front of Christman’s Casper Mountain cabin, trail systems statewide could feel painful reverberations. “All my thinking is predicated on the belief I have that a negotiated settlement is possible here,” Patterson said. “If the answer comes back that, no, we don’t have prescriptive easement rights, then [landowners] could shut down the trail.” Patterson thinks the consequences of being wrong are severe enough for the county to opt not to ask the question of prescriptive easement rights in the first place. Landowners statewide could stand on this case as a legal precedent, Patterson said, to justify their objections to longstanding public use of trails running through their own private property. In the Bridle Trail case, ending public use of the private road in question would require rerouting the current trail to skirt around Christman’s property and still complete the Casper Mountain loop. But according to County Attorney Bill Knight, the Christman case is not just about prescriptive easements, and any risk of landowners rallying to end Bridle Trail public use on their land as a result of this potential court case is purely hypothetical. Should the dispute move to court in a little under six months, Knight said the county would argue not just for prescriptive but also implied and express easement rights on the private road running through Christman’s property. While an express easement is a willful and written agreement between two parties allowing use of certain land, rights of access granted by prescriptive and implied easements are established in Wyoming by demonstrating at least 10 years of obvious and consistent public use of the land...more