By DAVID KRIER
One thing Helmuth Krause can never be accused of is being a quitter. Since being ruled against in an easement dispute in Grant County Circuit Court in August 2008, Krause has continued to fight for the right to pasture his cattle on his own property—a 164-acre farm on Hickory Flat Road south of Muscoda.
“We own the property, but according to the judge’s ruling, the cattle can’t be on the easement,” says the 82-year-old Krause. “It’s not just the easement we can’t use; he’s taken away a good part of the farm.”
The complicated story dates back to 1994. That’s when Krause purchased the property from the previous owner, E.J. Connery. However, in 1987 Connery sold 116 acres on the southern border of what is now Krause’s property to Joe Vosberg of Cuba City. That sale also included an easement across Krause’s property. According to the 1987 Abstract of Title, the perpetual easement ran “…along an existing logging road to the North line of said 40 to an existing gate. Grantee shall not fence this easement and shall keep all gates closed at all times.”
Everything seemed fine until Feb. 7, 2008. That’s when Vosberg sued Krause for installing additional cattle gates that Vosberg had to open and close to access his property, as well as chaining and locking the gates on occasion, making access to Vosberg’s property more difficult.
In the lawsuit Vosberg asked that the gates be removed, as well as “a permanent injunction in joining the defendants and any other parties from interfering in any way with plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of the easement area.”
“It wasn’t just the gates; the cows dropping manure on the easement road was one of his main complaints,” Krause said.
On Aug. 21, 2008, Grant County Judge Robert VanDeHey ruled in Vosberg’s favor, ordering Krause to give him “full and unobstructed use of the easement,” as well as keep all cattle and other obstructions off the easement.
Krause says it took a full year before he got a copy of the judgment and by that time it was too late to appeal. His only recourse at this time is a civil lawsuit, a lawsuit he says he can’t afford.
“We were shopping for a lawyer and no one would touch it,” Krause says. “No one wanted anything to do with it. It would cost a lot of money and they figured we didn’t have it, which we probably don’t.”
On Monday of this week Krause took his case before the Grant County Law Enforcement Committee. Specifically, he would like the case re-opened on the grounds that Vosberg committed perjury back in 2008. Sheriff Nate Dreckman was in attendance and said he had taken the matter before District Attorney Lisa Riniker, who declined to prosecute.
“I discussed the case with her and she declined,” Dreckman said.
“The proof is right there numerous times that perjury was committed, and nothing can be done?” asked Krause. “The truth must be told in order to have justice. I think this needs an investigation.”
However, committee members explained that they were not prosecutors. “The sheriff took it to the DA in 2012 and Lisa Riniker chose not to pursue it,” said Larry Wolf. “There’s nothing we can do.”
Many of the committee members are farmers themselves, including committee chair Pat Schroeder, who said, “I sympathize with you. I agree with you wholeheartedly, but we can’t overrule the judge.”
“Your beef is basically with the judicial system, and we’re not a part of that,” added committee member Gary Ranum.
“We are trying to work within the boundaries we have, and sometimes boundaries aren’t fun,” Schroeder added. “We’re trying to help you. We sent it to the sheriff and these are the recommendations he got.”
Schroeder and others said they are seeing an increasing number of easement disputes as urban residents purchase hunting and recreational land in Grant County, property that is occasionally land locked.
“Each time a piece of property is sold off there are going to be problems,” said John Patcle. “As long as these people continue to come out here and buy land for hunting, there are going to be problems.”
Grant County Zoning Administrator Linda Schweikert said that in her year in the position she hasn’t seen a lot of easement disputes, but says it is usually a difficult situation.
“It doesn’t occur that often, but whenever you deal with two different land owners it’s difficult and situations do arise,” she said. “Easements often span generations and sometimes people forget why they were there. We try and encourage people to purchase land so they don’t become land-locked.”
As for Helmuth Krause, he says he’s not giving up and will take his fight to the state capitol if necessary.
“Many have told me to just give it up, that you can’t beat the superior powers,” Krause said. “Is that what America has come to, the superior and the inferior? That’s fascist; so I can’t give up this fight. If justice can’t be obtained through the system, the fight will be taken to the streets.”