Authors note – We receive many, many comments on this blog from people who have disputes with their neighbor over property lines. In almost all cases, the answer is: 1. Hire a professional land surveyor to verify property lines, and if you have already done that, 2. Seek legal counsel to advise you. It is important to remember that land surveyors do not practice the law. Legal counsel will be able to advise you of local laws and the best way to resolve the situation.
Boundary pins may be driven into the ground at the corners of your lot by a licensed surveyor. These mark the intersection points of the property, so you can tell for certain where your property ends and that of your neighbor begins.
One question we get asked frequently is: Is it illegal to move a survey marker? Generally, the answer to that question is YES, it is illegal. Only government officials with a permissible purpose, such as a cadastral land resurvey, should remove or alter permanent survey markers. Even a professionally licensed land surveyor will not move or remove survey markers, as it is considered unethical to do so.
For Wyoming, we refer you to the Wyoming State Statutes & Constitution, Title 6: Crimes and Offenses.
6-3-202. Altering landmarks; penalties.
(a) A person is guilty of altering landmarks if, with intent to destroy or deface the mark on a monument, landmark or bearing-tree designating the corner or boundary of a tract of land, he knowingly:
(i) Displaces the monument or landmark;
(ii) Defaces or alters the mark; or
(iii) Breaks, cuts down or removes the monument, landmark or bearing-tree.
(b) Altering landmarks is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), or both.
Furthermore, some survey monuments may be federally owned, such as the section corners for the U.S. Public Land Survey System (shown below). Those are actually stamped with the words “UNLAWFUL TO DISTURB.” Any unauthorized person who alters or removes of these government survey monuments could also be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable with fines and/or imprisonment.
Okay, so what about the little wooden stakes with orange tape that surveyors put out to temporarily mark a boundary or pre-construction build site?
It could also be illegal to remove wooden stakes placed by the surveyor, depending on what the stake is there for. They should only be removed by the person that paid for them in the first place. Unless they are on YOUR property, it’s best to leave them alone. General common law principles of trespass would hold a person liable for removing a surveyor’s stakes from someone else’s property.
If you are the one who paid the surveyor to put the markers on your property, and your use for them is now done, then go ahead and remove them. They do make good kindling!