Findings uncover 8.3 million acres of inaccessible, corner-locked public land
Missoula, Montana — onX recently conducted the outdoor industry’s first detailed analysis of “corner-locked” public lands. In its newly published “Corner-Locked Report,” onX illustrates both the scale and scope of an issue that’s fueling a heated debate between public land enthusiasts and private landowners in western states like Wyoming, where a pending court case could ignite massive changes to public land policy.
The issue at hand is “corner crossing,” or stepping over a property corner from one piece of public land to another. The topic is most often debated in western states, where vast tracts of land are parceled into an alternating public/private “checkerboard” pattern. Corner crossing is considered by many a legal gray area. Regardless, most hunters in the West avoid the practice or seek landowner permission before doing so. Despite numerous attempts in state legislatures to formally prohibit or legalize the practice, no such bills have become law.
According to the newly published onX Corner-Locked Report, there are 27,120 of these controversial corners in the West, behind which lie 8.3 million acres of “corner-locked” land. That’s equal to an area 3.8 times the size of Yellowstone National Park, or 9,845 Central Parks, that can’t be accessed freely by the public.
The Corner-Locked Report outlines the prevalence of corner-locked land in various western states. Wyoming, for example, has 4.19 million acres of landlocked public land, 2.4 million acres of which are corner-locked behind 8,159 property corners. These corners are shared with 1,200 unique landowners.
A recent court case in Wyoming is challenging the uneasy status quo around corner crossing in the state. In October 2021, four hunters from Missouri were charged with criminal trespass after corner crossing public land in Carbon County, Wyoming. The case is due in court next week and could be an inflection point for law and land access debates in courthouses and statehouses across the West going forward.
Accessing corner-locked land is of vital interest to public land recreationists, particularly hunters. According to another onX report detailing the pandemic’s effect on hunting, there was a 25% increase in new hunters across the country in 2020. The majority of these new hunters did most of their hunting on public land. As a result, there’s an increased demand for public land access, especially as these landscapes see increased crowding and pressure.
The Corner-Locked Report also explores the concerns of private landowners and challenges some common misconceptions surrounding the corner-locked land issue. For example, across the western U.S., there are only 11,000 private landowners who share a property corner with corner-locked public land. One-fifth of these corners are owned by oil, gas, energy, timber and mining companies, dispelling the notion that this issue simply boils down to individual private landowners trying to keep the public out.
Visit www.onxmaps.com/onx-access-initiatives/corner-crossing-report to read the entire report and learn about corner crossing’s contentious history, what’s at stake, and potential solutions that could benefit the various stakeholders who all care deeply about preserving the West’s wild places.
Founded in 2009, onX is a pioneer in digital outdoor navigation, developing software that helps inform, inspire, and empower outdoor recreationists. onX Hunt, onX Offroad, and onX Backcountry make up the company’s suite of apps which are built by explorers for explorers. Because off-the-beaten path experiences are at the heart of what onX does, the company also leads initiatives to protect and expand access to public land and promote stewardship opportunities. Learn more at www.onxmaps.com/about.