Environmental Law

New Wyoming law turns environmental activists into criminals, law prof says

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A new Wyoming law that makes it a crime to collect “resource data” from open land is so broad that it could criminalize taking a picture of a geyser on public land, according to a University of Denver law professor.

The law bars the collection of environmental data from open land—whether it’s state, federal or privately owned—if the information is intended to be submitted to the state or federal government, according to a Slate article by the law professor Justin Pidot.

The law is intended to conceal that many streams are contaminated by E. coli bacteria, which likely comes from cattle near the streams, Pidot says. “The ranching community in Wyoming wields considerable political power and has no interest in [obligations to manage their herds], so the state is trying to stop the flow of information rather than forthrightly address the problem,” Pidot writes.

Pidot asserts that the law interferes with federal environmental statutes, violating the supremacy clause, and violates First Amendment rights to engage in free speech and to petition the government.

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