Wyoming lawmakers adopted legislation making it illegal to gather data on open space—such as performing water quality tests or taking photographs—for the purpose of reporting to the government harmful farming practices, environmental degradation, or other ills.
The two-part legislative package, signed by Gov. Matt Mead earlier this year, is the subject of a constitutional legal challenge from environmentalists, animal rights advocates, and the media.
The legislation is so onerous that it disallows regulators from even acting upon evidence of wrongdoing if the data was gathered without a landowners’ permission, even if the data was gathered on public land. And it gives private landowners fodder to sue for trespassing. The legislation was crafted after the Western Watersheds Project collected data that revealed water pollution and federal grazing violations. Those revelations prompted Wyoming regulators to include three streams on a list of water bodies violating state environmental quality standards.