A proposed bill could prevent DNR wardens from going on private land without reasonable suspicion. Those behind it say right now wardens are trespassing when they enter private land, something current law allows.  Local 5’s Kris Schuller explains the bill being debated in Madison.

In a committee room in Madison testimony on a proposed bill to restrict access to private property for DNR wardens. Those behind it using the extreme example of Robert Stietz from Lafayette County as justification. Stiez was arrested after an armed standoff with two game wardens during deer hunting season in 2012 – while out looking for trespassers on his property.

“The two wardens trespassed on his land, confronted and violently accosted him, subsequently prosecuted him,” said Charles Giesen, Stietz’s attorney.

The wardens went on Stietz’s land to investigate a parked car. Wardens often go on private property and federal and state law permits it. But Assembly Bill 411 would limit that right.

“This bill will simply enforce the law of trespass against the DNR, unless they’ve got reasonable suspicion,” said Dean Strang, Stietz’s attorney.

“We would be directly opposed to this type of legislation,” said Jodi Arndt Labs, president of the Izaak Walton League of Brown County.

The Izaak Walton League is a group dedicated to preserving our natural resources. Labs says most state land is privately owned and this bill would cause problems.

“If people don’t believe the DNR can come on their land to determine if they have a hunting or fishing license, what would motivate them to purchase a hunting or fishing license,” Labs said.

It is a feeling shared by the president of Whitetails Unlimited.

“If this going on private property is serving the purpose of protecting our wildlife, catching poachers and game thieves – then yes, we are concerned about the new law,” said Jeff Schinkten.

For now, this is only a proposal before the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage. It’s not yet scheduled for a vote.

Stietz spent a year in jail – his conviction was overturned in June.