Update on Wyoming Trespass Law and Lawsuit

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It isn’t every non-profit conservation organization that so riles the establishment that a state legislature passes laws against it. Western Watersheds Project would be proud of that distinction except for the consequences of the new Wyoming law that criminalizes data collection on “open land.” It’s a frightening step towards penalizing whistleblowers rather than prosecuting polluters, and though we’re sure it was designed primarily to stop Wyoming Director Jonathan Ratner, the vaguely worded law could affect any citizen scientist on any unincorporated lands or subdivisions in Wyoming.

The good news is that Wyoming’s “Data Trespass Law,” is getting plenty of attention now that Attorney Justin Pidot exposed it in Slate magazine. With media outlets like the Washington Post running stories with the headline, “Wyoming doesn’t want you to know how much cow poop is in its water,” it’s safe to say that the law’s intention to block public oversight of natural resources is clear. The Wyoming government is being embarrassed nationally by this overreach of private property rights onto the public interest.

ABC News highlighted the retaliatory nature of the law specific to WWP: “Critics say it’s no coincidence that such a law was passed amid an ongoing dispute between a group of Wyoming ranchers and the Western Watershed Project, a group of “citizen enforcers” who set out to collect data on E. coli contamination in public streams and rivers that they allege is caused by industrial cattle grazing.”

Meanwhile, the rancher lawsuit against WWP for alleged trespass violations is winding its way through the Wyoming courts. Last Monday, WWP asked the judge to dismiss the frivolous and retaliatory lawsuit brought against the organization last summer. It would be great if the judge would simply dismiss the case on the grounds of time-barred claims, insufficient evidence, unsubstantiated allegations of harm, and speculation.

Read the Motion to Dismiss here.

And while we’re sure that the Wyoming ranchers and the attorneys who represent them are hoping this lawsuit simply shuts WWP down, Jonathan and WWP continue to work to expose the illegal activities and gross violations of federal law that occur on public lands livestock allotments.

Show your support by sharing this email and donating to WWP today. While our attorneys are working pro bono, WWP’s staff still bear the expense of travel and litigation-related activities, which is considerable. Your support helps WWP defend itself in Wyoming, and thereby protects clean water, clean air, ecological integrity, and wildlife habitat.

See photos of cow damaged riparian areas in Wyoming here.

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