A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the State of Wyoming by activist groups over recently enacted data trespass laws in the Cowboy State. State data trespass laws make it illegal to collect resource data on private lands for the purpose of sharing it with the government. The plaintiffs say the laws they are concerned about “are written so expansively that they could even be interpreted to criminalize submission of photographs to the National Park Service from some popular tourist sites in the state, such as the Grand Tetons, Devil’s Tower and Yellowstone National Park.” NoTrespassingMainChallenging Wyoming’s new data trespass laws in federal district court are the Western Watersheds Project, National Press Photographers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Center for Food Safety. The suit claims that, in violation of Americans’ constitutional rights, the laws punish communication to government agencies of photos and data taken on open land and criminalize otherwise lawful advocacy in an attempt to undercut protection of public lands and the environment. The plaintiffs charge that the data trespass laws make “citizen science” illegal in Wyoming. The plaintiffs claim the laws are “in direct response to Western Watersheds Project’s collection of water quality data to highlight agricultural impacts to publicly owned land and streams in the state.” They say those citizen science efforts are not unique to the region, and that other conservation organizations undertake scientific studies in the region that would be similarly barred. “The data-censorship laws are a significant expansion of the state’s trespass statutes, penalizing even mistaken entry to open lands, and even authorized entry to those lands, if specific approval to collect information was not expressly received,” the plaintiffs’ statement reads. “It’s clear that Wyoming’s agricultural industry [is] looking for a way to silence its critics, and the state legislature went along with the plan,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s a shame that Wyoming’s government cares less about upholding the rights of all of its citizens to clean water and clean air and more about the livestock sector’s ‘right’ to secretly pollute and impair our natural resources.” National Press Photographers Association President Mark Dolan said, “NPPA members often photograph and record open land in Wyoming, whether documenting the environment, wildlife, weather emergencies, or to simply document and share the grandeur of that great state. The state of Wyoming has unjustifiably put photojournalists at risk of civil suit and criminal prosecution for this important work, and more importantly, they have jeopardized the public’s right to receive the information and images photojournalists provide them. NPPA decries the laws’ blatant violation of constitutionally-protected freedoms of the press that are the hallmark of this nation.”

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