The Wisconsin State Assembly passed on a bipartisan 59-34 vote Feb. 19 a bill by state Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) which allows pedestrians to walk directly across a clear stretch of railroad track or a railroad right-of-way without facing a fine for trespassing.
Nerison authored Assembly Bill 876 in response to citizen concerns that strict enforcement of railroad trespass laws by Burlington Northern would put hundreds of miles of Mississippi River shoreline off limits to hunters, anglers, trappers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
In addition, Nerison pointed out that over 100 Department of Natural Resources properties are crossed by railroad tracks, effectively restricting access to public recreational areas throughout our state. He is concerned about a loss of tourism dollars and the discouragement of successive generations of outdoor enthusiasts if they must own land in order to develop their passion.
“Wisconsin is fortunate to have significant, unique natural areas and public properties. For over 150 years, it was legal to cross a railroad track to enjoy them. That action became illegal in 2005, and it’s time to change the law back to what it was,” Nerison said.
Now that the bill has passed the Assembly, it moves to the State Senate for consideration. Should it pass the Senate, Gov. Scott Walker must sign the bill for it to become law.
“I know that taking on the railroad companies is an uphill battle. But we’ve moved down the tracks, so to speak, in getting this through the Assembly. I thank everyone for the hard work and support and it’s time to focus on the Senate and Governor to get this sensible bill to become law,” Nerison said.