August 11, 2016

Wisconsin: Train Track Trespassing Laws Block Access to Public Lands

Bills in both the Wisconsin house and senate that would give sportsmen an exemption to laws prohibiting the crossing of railroad tracks by pedestrians, failed to pass during the 2016 legislative session. Under current Wisconsin law, no person may enter or remain on railroad tracks and tracks cannot be crossed unless at a designated crossing. According to a recent article in, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have identified more than 120 spots along the Mississippi River where shore access requires crossing tracks, with equally as many DNR properties in the state bisected by tracks. A department memo stated that the enforcement of the current crossing law “might well be the largest loss of public access to public waters in the history of the state.”

Wisconsin AB 876 and S 734 attempted to remedy this situation and allow hunters and anglers to cross railroad tracks to access public lands, but the bills failed to advance by the time the legislative session adjourned. This issue will likely resurface in the 2017 legislative session as Wisconsin sportsmen seek to regain access to many of the state’s fishing or hunting areas.

WI AB 876 was sponsored by Wisconsin Legislative Sportsmen’s Co-Chair Representative Joel Kleefisch; and Caucus Members Representative Lee Nerison, Representative Robert Brooks, and Representative Ken Skowronski. WI S 734 was sponsored by Wisconsin Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Mark Miller and Caucus Members Senator Kathleen Vinehout and Senator Leah Vukmir.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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