Photographer arrested after paragliding over Kansas feedlot

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A freelance photographer taking photos of a Kansas feedlot for National Geographic faces a charge of criminal trespassing.

The photographer, George Steinmetz, was taking aerial photos of the feedlot near Garden City for a series about food scheduled to publish in 2014 when a feedlot employee noticed the paraglider and alerted authorities.

The Associated Press reports Steinmetz and his paraglider instructor failed to obtain permission to launch a paraglider from private property and didn’t notify the feedlot of their plans. The two were arrested and kept in Finney County Jail for a short time before paying a $270 bond.

The incident raises questions about trespassing and if landowners own the air above them. The issue will face additional consideration as animal welfare and media groups are investing in unmanned aerial vehicles and drones.

Kansas Livestock Association spokesman Todd Domer told the Hutchinson News an unauthorized flying object circling the feedlot poses a food security issue for the facility, especially in a time where agri-terrorism is a threat.

A spokeswoman for the National Geographic sided with the freelance photographer and said the company would provide legal assistance if necessary.

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Idaho  |  July, 11, 2013 at 09:37 AM

It's probably more a question of the photograph. Who owns it, rights, copyright law and so forth.

July, 15, 2013 at 12:46 PM

no questin there... .. the person who makes the camera say "CLICK" owns the copyright. Tresspass, and access to provate property are separate issues. I find this interesting in light of increasing use of surveilance drones by government.. if laws can keep THIS guy from overflying and making images of private property, the same laws SHOULD keep government and other private (organisation, media, etc) entities from doing the same.

Roseville  |  July, 11, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Airspace is not owned by the land owner. If that were the case, when I fly my airplane low and slow I would be trespassing over thousands of homeowners. The FAA owns the airspace. A good attorney should burry Finney County for unlawful arrest and abuse of police authority. Now that being said, there is a rule by the FAA that says you may not fly lower than 500 over unpopulated areas. If he broke that law then that is a different story.

California  |  July, 11, 2013 at 03:20 PM

The FAA doesn't own airspace, they regulate airspace, and the 500ft rule is for populated areas excluding the event of an emergency landing.

Kansas  |  July, 12, 2013 at 09:21 AM

The arrest opens an interesting discussion. Is someone in an airplane flying over the property at 10,000 feet while taking photos breaking the law? How about satellite imaging? Or Google's mapping project? Seems to me that banning photography of any kind is an essentially useless pursuit, even for the noblest reasons.

IL  |  July, 12, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Was always told you can not take a picture of someone's private property. Know of a news person that took a picture of a farm building burning. Charges were filed & He paid a hefty fine.

Brian Brozovic    
Seattle, WA  |  July, 12, 2013 at 12:11 PM

It will be interesting to see where this goes. I am not a professional law guru when it comes to personal property, nor will I ever try to be. I can see how landing on private property would potentially fall (excuse the unintentional pun) into a trespassing category, but I am not sure how that would apply to the air. Then again, I am not sure how the FAA regulates airspace either. Chuck from Kansas raises a good point. At what point does imaging cross the line between artistic freedom and violation? Is that line even drawn in many circumstances?

Beef Lover    
Texas  |  July, 12, 2013 at 12:29 PM

What about lawful use of unmanned drones? Animal rights activists are using them to harass hunters. If they are flying low enough to harass hunters and drive off wildlife then they can be shot down with a shotgun. How low constitutes trespass? If a hunter is on his land - not public - then what happens when he shoots it down? What if ranchers are gathering cattle or branding and the animal activists are using low flying drones to harass and a rancher shoots the drone?

SBC, Nebraska  |  July, 12, 2013 at 11:00 PM

This incident should not have progressed to this point. The employee of said feedyard should have alerted the owner or his supervisor. Then one or both should have retreived their rifle from their vehicles and ultimately gave said paraglider a naval burial in the runoff pit. That would put an end to this kind of crap. Enough lawyers and lawmakers. Its time we that work and provide for the world start protecting our property with our God given rights.

Missouri  |  July, 14, 2013 at 06:00 AM

Pasture cattle are used to lots of things and are not easily spooked. However, cattle who have spent their life in a feedlot have had a relatively controlled environment and when something unusual like a barking dog or a colorful low flying object that is clearly not a bird captures their attention, it can cause them to run through a fence, tearing up fences and causing a possible loss of livestock. These large feedlots can have many thousands of head of cattle, and they tend to have a collective mentality. If one is spooked, they all start running. A photographer may very well not be aware of feedlot cattle behavior but the feedlot owner or manager is and must protect his property.

Nancy Thompson    
facebook  |  July, 14, 2013 at 09:59 AM

We have a paraglider fly over us at least once a month. It has never bothered the horses,dogs,cattle or any other critter here or at the neighbors farms. Not one time has any of us yelled "Agri-terrorism",trespasser or even worried that maybe someone is taking pics. I could care only care if you have something to hide. If he wasn't flying under 500' then he was in the right. You can't own airspace over your property,you can't own the clouds and rain and you can't own the wind. If that was the case then all air traffic would have to follow the same routes as the roads...not happening.

Florida  |  July, 14, 2013 at 01:33 PM

The National Geographic has been taken over by liberal left wingers and is NO LONGER worth the price or space on a news stand. It's NOW part of the Liberal Propaganda spouters.

Missouri  |  July, 14, 2013 at 01:43 PM

This isn't about hang gliding or taking photos. This is about the Gov. Going after cattleman and farmers to stop them from raising beef and stop farmers from having dairy farms or raising Food. This is about HHS and the EPA to regulate these food producers for the world and eventually put them out of business just like they are doing to the coal miners in VA. Want to learn more of the New World Order google AGEND 21. It's not a conspiracy it is happening all over the country at local levels.

John Q. Public    
tN  |  July, 14, 2013 at 08:54 PM

The proberty owner does own the airspace above his property. Look under property rights in any real estate law book.

Siloam  |  July, 16, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Seriously, are you the George Zimmerman of the farming community?

Georgia  |  July, 16, 2013 at 05:09 PM

It's more a question of what are they hiding? If you want someone arrested for taking pictures of how "our" meat is slaughtered, then what is it you don't want us to see? This is exactly why I avoid buying meat in supermarkets and from big ag companies. You can't trust them. This is why more and more people are eating less and less meat these days. The big meat and big ag companies are turning this whole country vegan.

July, 16, 2013 at 05:15 PM

Why would a rancher shoot a drone? The ranchers & farmers in my area are not violent or paranoid like this. What are they hiding? Big Ag is scary. I'm glad I only buy local meat/produce.

July, 16, 2013 at 05:19 PM

I'm glad people like you are not in charge. You can't own the sky, last time I checked. There is no 'stand-your-sky law', after all. You don't' like someone flying over your property so you blast them out of the sky? How is that your "God given right"?

July, 16, 2013 at 05:27 PM

No. You can't own air above your property.

July, 17, 2013 at 03:24 PM

la peur de voir se que vous mettez dans votre assiette donc de l AGONIE pauvre journaliste est pour la democratie il merite la medaille de notre mere la terre qui s appel l empathie.

July, 17, 2013 at 06:48 PM

Um...the issue at hand here is TRESPASSING by parking on posted property. There's really no 'law' involved in the rest except for the basic aviation rules involving safety and maneuvering room when navigating legal airspace. However, there's a much more concerning factor in flying low over a feedlot, or any livestock, and that's the threat of human and animal harm through panic and stampede-type behavior. I've seen what happens when animals freak out and it is horrible. If the guy had just asked permission and how low he could fly, he'd probably have been given permission and the limits he needed to know to fly the area safely and still get his photos. He's experienced enough at getting photos that this is a scandalous lack of common courtesy and sense, though.

July, 17, 2013 at 06:49 PM

Depends on where he was standing and if the property was posted--I'd bet he was on the property and it was posted...just like my climbing your fence to take pictures of you by the pool without permission would be (for example).

July, 17, 2013 at 06:58 PM

"It's more a question of what are they hiding? If you want someone arrested for taking pictures of how "our" meat is slaughtered, then what is it you don't want us to see? This is exactly why I avoid buying meat in supermarkets and from big ag companies. You can't trust them. This is why more and more people are eating less and less meat these days. The big meat and big ag companies are turning this whole country vegan." I STRONGLY disagree. What's 'turning this country vegan' is a bunch of manipulative animal supremacists who paint every single animal endeavor with the worst possible brush, and embrace dishonest and deceptive behavior to do so, all the name of 'animal rights'. You assume that an objection to this type of observation (photography) means that there is something to hide--why? I have a herd and don't want people bugging my critters--it can panic them and cause damage or death to the animals or people! So what am I hiding? Nothing! A feedlot is no different, folks--some idiot flying low for a good picture can spook the whole group and result in horrific injuries (of which I'd expect to see photos of as examples of 'poor husbandry'--ha!) of both the cattle and the people in there working with them. SINCE WHEN does a desire for security and privacy or basic safety mean that you have something to hide? Think it through, folks...and take a good long look at where you get your information.


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