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This land is whose land? False ‘No Trespassing’ signs could become illegal

Bill strolling through the Legislature would make erroneous private property postings a criminal offense with fines up to $10K.

Misleading private property signs, like this one in western Washakie County, could cost their posters criminal charges and fines up to $10,000 under a 2023 bill that's advancing through the Wyoming Legislature. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

Mike Koshmrl, WyoFile

CHEYENNE—It’s not hard to find misleading “no trespassing” and “private property” signs erected on public land in Wyoming, a tactic used to dissuade people from trekking onto property they can legally access 

Soon, however, adjoining private landowners and others who post that type of erroneous signage could face big fines. House Bill 147 – Unlawful trespass signage-taking of wildlife, which is sailing through the Legislature, would make such deceit a crime. 

Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie), the measure’s sponsor, told fellow lawmakers last week the bill stems from personal experience. 

“You are following your OnX hunt app and you know exactly where you should be and can be, and suddenly run into a ‘No Trespass,’” Provenza told the Senate Travel, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Committee Feb. 9.  

Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie) at the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

As proposed, HB 147 would live among the statutes governing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and would be enforceable by wardens and other state-employed peace officers. 

Hunters, anglers and the advocacy groups that represent them have lined up in support of the measure. Misleading private property signage is common enough on the landscape that hunters identified it as a top issue, according to a Backcountry Hunters and Anglers member survey that lobbyist Sabrina King referenced. 

“It’s been interesting working on this bill because every person I talk to has a story about this: of encountering a sign that they believe is an improper ‘No Trespass’ sign,” King told the Senate committee. 

Wyoming Wildlife Federation’s government affairs director, Jessi Johnson, lobbied the committee in support of HB 147. 

“The de-escalation of conflict between hunters and landowners is something that’s at the forefront of a lot of our minds right now,” Johnson said. 

The goal, Johnson said, is to transform the dialogue from the “trespass vortex” that Wyoming seems to be stuck in to a cooperative conversation about public access. 

House Bill 147 has encountered almost zero opposition from lawmakers during the session. It passed the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee in an 8-0 vote, and passed its third reading on the House floor 61-1. Rep. Bill Allemand (R-Midwest) stood alone in voting nay. The legislation also breezed through its Senate committee hearing 5-0, then was met favorably in its first two Senate floor readings. 

Even Wyoming’s agricultural lobby, which has pressed for tighter trespass laws, has received HB 147 somewhat favorably. 

“We are comfortable with this bill …,” testified Jim Magagna, representing the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Wyoming Wool Growers Association. “There are instances where state land in particular is perhaps being improperly posted, and I believe this addresses it.” 

Language added to the bill via amendment would give sign-posters a chance to remove the misleading signage before being fined. If they don’t comply, steep penalties could follow.  

Under Wyoming statute, interfering with someone who’s lawfully hunting or fishing is punishable with a misdemeanor citation that comes with fines of up to $10,000. Subsequent violations can net fines of up to $50,000. 

Unless it’s laid back, HB 147’s third and final reading on the Senate floor will take place Tuesday. If it again receives a favorable vote and the House concurs with any potential changes, it will then go to Gov. Mark Gordon for his signature.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.