“Data Trespass,” Wyoming’s Fancy Name for Ag-Gag

By Sue Udry, Dissent NewsWire | Op-Ed

Jonathan Ratner tests water. He visits streams in Wyoming, takes samples and tests it for E. coli. He’s been testing streams for years, concerned that waste from Wyoming’s 1.3 million cattle is polluting streams. And it is.

There's a lot of BULL rambling around in the office of Wyoming's Governor
There’s a lot of BULL rambling around in the office of Wyoming’s Governor

Ratner sends his results to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ so that streams with too much E. coli can be put on the impaired waters list. That list goes to the Environmental Protection Agency, and, under the Clean Water Act, state and federal regulators should then take action to reduce the level of pollution. Ratner says that means keeping cattle from grazing too close to streams.

But this is Wyoming, “the cowboy state,” and ranchers don’t take kindly to being told where their cattle can roam. So last week, Governor Matt Mead signed Senate file 12, a bill that makes it a felony to trespass to unlawfully collect data, and prohibits any data collected “unlawfully” from being used in and civil, criminal or administrative proceeding. Animal rights and environmental activists are calling it an “Ag-gag” law, and, according to Wyoming Public Radio, “Wyoming agriculture interests are supporting the bill to thwart environmental researchers, who, they claim, often collect environmental data to support their legal efforts.” But legislators say it’s all to do with property rights and privacy.

“I want to remind the body that this is information, this data, is private information,” said Senator Larry Hicks during debate. “In a lot of ways it is no different than your social security number.  It has some of the same ramifications if that resides in the public domain.”

Ratner has been collecting his samples on public property, he isn’t sneaking onto private ranches in the dark of night. But the bill would still make what he does a felony. To understand that, you need to understand this about Wyoming: it’s big, there aren’t a lot of people, and while most land in the state is public, the roads everyone drives on often cut through private property. Ratner says it’s not uncommon for the Bureau of Land Management to build a road on private property and not bother to get an easement from the owner. They’re mostly just dirt roads anyway.

Because of this quirk of Wyoming roadways, which force people to drive on private land (and therefore, trespass), the law “makes millions of acres of BLM land off limits to me,” Ratner says.

The sense around the state is that the law is specifically targeted at Ratner and his organization, Western Watersheds, but it could apply to whistleblowers in various industries. Paige Tomaselli, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety told Wyoming News “Our reading of the law is it is broad enough that it could apply to any facility, including animal processing facilities or factories. It might not specifically say it deals with animal facilities, as a law in Idaho does, but we think it would still apply.”

An amendment that would have specifically exempted data having to do with “the health, treatment or welfare of a domesticated animal” was defeated on a voice vote, according the Wyoming News.



  1. Remember the Federal Government and the American people saved the Beef Industry? Well remember that old adage be careful who you offer help to for free? These folks endanger water….wildlife…habitat and everything theh come in contact with. I dont call it AG GAG Its just crime. Knowingly covering a crime or altering On not allowing access to potential crime scene is obstruction of justice. Tell Governor Mead to quit Obstructing Justice.


  2. They really hit a hornets’ nest:

    ‘Ag gag’ law criminalizing documentation of farming abuses passed in Wyoming

    Ag-gag laws take our food system in the wrong direction,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety.

    “Allowing laws that reduce the accountability of food producers only further degrades our relationship with the land and our food. These laws work to criminalize speech intended to improve our food system and keep our food production behind closed doors. Without the ability to witness, expose, and critique some of the nation’s most powerful industries, we are all vulnerable.”

    Activists who seek to expose factory farm abuses are already subject to the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which allows harsh punishment for any damage that results in a loss of property or profits for any entity that has a “connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.”


  3. hey you guys , how does all this sit with wayne pacelle ? what has happened to his voice in every issue that has comeup in the last 3 years . he just sits behind the skirt of mrs.whittaker and her cheat and horse abuser husband the senator no good. ya know I use to say karma has a way of biting you I ass when you least expect it ! but girls there ar so many that they will drag alot of good people down with them . so what can we do as it is I spend so much time in front of my computer signing so many petitions and writing letters trying to get these folks just to do the right things! with this regime in office nobody is doing what is right ! I don’t think I have ever signed as much stuff as in the last 6 years


    • Do what im doin. Banging on doors. I leave the computer turn off cell and drive to whom it may concern. People can turn away from petitions and phone calls and whatever but they have a Different response to person to person. People listen i person.


  4. Reblogged this on cindymendoza47 and commented:
    dear god: let all the right minded people get through to all those that do harm . and may all those harmed please be in your loving arms , please be with us doing your work under your supervision and always feel your love . sometimes we feel discourage as things go south real fast . may your love and your light shine for us, amen


  5. OK, I’m literally (almost) at a LOSS of comprehension here!? E.g. “Allowing laws that reduce the accountability of food producers only further degrades our relationship with the land and our food. These laws work to criminalize speech intended to improve our food system….“. MY QUESTION is : WHERE are all of the Non-rancher citizens of Wyoming ??? The number of adult Humans living upON cattle ranches (or even driving in to work there) simply Have to be statistically far FEWER than regular prudent (humane?) adult citizens who do not ! Are these regular prudent people actually Fenced-out of the voting booths, as well ? Are there even yet more barbaric feudal-type laws which truly Prohibit regular citizens from: town halls, visiting the Governors office, or state legislatures, even city councils and neighborhood watch committees; and particularly From Gathering-at-the-Farmers-Market to discuss *benefits of KNOWING /Trusting your local food producers* ~which is become THE prudent way to control your family’s health (across the nation & the world) ?? Since the range-roaming cattle are consistently claimed to produce less than 3-4% of US consumed beef, HOW can these (overall insignificant) ranch corporations be SO overwhelmingly Strong, even financially, compared to regular citizens /businesses?? Coming from a mostly rural state, with lots of foreign (outa state) and national forest Lands ~ let it be known that : WV citizens have the very longest history of Fighting against corporate & corrupt government -ownership of our civil and land and safety rights in this country !! (think “Hatfields & McCoys“, stripmining, EPA{pro & con}, railroading, et al). Not that we haven’t had a share of “not so proud to claim“ disgraced politicians over 150 years, just as more populous states have{Downton Abbey?};
    at least we did Not allow them to OWN us or GAG us for long !… therefore, what’s the point ? WHO are and WHERE are the actual human beings that Live & vote in this virtual feudal-state of WYOMING ?? Why in the h* do they continue to elect such dangerously biased/ inept /non-representative CLOWNs, including this Governator Mead and Suey Wallis as well ???
    In some ways, I appreciate the State’s Rights arguments ~but NOT when such a state makes separatist Rules which directly countermind and “officially BREAK Federal Laws“!! ~particularly those of EPA, food and water safety, USDA, security, etc. I can’t see that as Legal in any way! In my mind, IF such actions are the *majority opinions of Wyoming* citizens ~then they’re welcome to succeed from this United union, take Mead & Suey & their like along; however they totally MUST leave behind every inch of MY/OUR collective Public Lands ! (or attempt to BUY them at very aggressive market Prices).
    IF such actions are NOT *majority opinions of Wyoming* citizens ~then Get off your collective arses and RECLAIM your Rights, your state, your Dignity!? Impeach the feudal kings NOW! It IS up to YOU- (unfortunately for the rest of America).


  6. Everyone has a right to clean water. Perhaps we can send a bottle of foul water to Governor Mead? Seems like he could use a good case of water borne illness.

    Note to self–only drink bottled water in WY. Don’t trust cattle ranchers…Lovell excepted..


    • Wonderful idea ! I suspect that the Water-monitoring guy (above) can easily point out the rIpest E.coli sources for bottling ? 1 good bout of THAT should open feudal-lord Mead’s…uh…eyes !


  7. How can collecting water samples from public waters in a public place be considered illegal in any form? It’s no different than letting your horse or dog take a drink. I understand the “trespass” is an artifact of the road systems, but the actual sampling is not a trespass if the water is flowing on freely accessible public lands. I suppose you’d go to jail in WY for filling a canteen (well filtered, of course).

    Without any monitoring of any water pollutants (as this new law seems to indulge) it seems no natural water in WY could be considered safe without testing… but no testing will be allowed?

    WY, the BS State. Has a nice ring to it.


  8. Someone needs to bring a lawsuit to Remove this. It can be won on the grounds is Restricts Federal Food…Water….Environmental Safety as well as Impedes prevention of harm to same.


  9. IMHO, I still believe that you-all should (and can) institute IMPEACHMENT proceedings against Mead !? And include his feudal henchmen. {AFTER Mar’s bottled water gift}. Seriously, as said : “not allowing access to a potential crime scene is obstruction of justice. Tell Governor Mead to quit Obstructing Justice.“


  10. Also, I truly would like to know the answer(s) here. Debbie or Carol , you probably are the ones that may help explain ? (it’s the biggest incomprehensible aspect of the whole RSGA thing, no matter how much I read about it). From my previous (highly ineloquent ranting ; which I *apologize* for hurting the Good people in Wyoming) the Question remains : Since the range-roaming cattle are consistently claimed to produce less than 3-4% of US consumed beef, HOW can these (overall insignificant) ranch corporations be SO overwhelmingly Strong, even {especially} financially, compared to regular citizens /businesses??


    • The truth? Threats. ANYONE who stands up to ranchers get threats from all other ranchers. I witnessed it when the Bundy situation broke out where other ranchers from all the states began threatening any and all ranchers online and in person who didnt join him. The rants were callous and personal. They literally threatened an auctioneer if he sold Bundys cattle he would never work again and he wouldave no business when they were done with him. The Old West is literally stuck in the old west mentality. Laws dont mean anything. They dont see themselves as bullies. They call everything property or rights. If you listen or read its the Only thinv they talk about. The right to bully is one they hold near and dear. The right to abuse…misuse and twist. They pick on anyone who does the Right thing. If you a good honest hardworking person you will be called everything in the book. They bash everyone from Pickens to Advocates and call people terrorist that are innocently trying to help animals. Bullies hide behind the laws meant to protect the vulnerable. They dress it up and beat it down. All thats missing is a wife beater t shirt and a cigarette hanging out the corner of their mouths. Regular folks are suppressed from speaking out. Many people are badgered. Sorry but the rest of America is combating bullying and working on working together but a handful of ranchers fail to see they need to progress. They always say well Them City Folks dont know….they watch tv shows and think thats how horses are all warm and fuzzy. Well I sat down and watched episodes of Bonanza and Ponderosa and all the others and what I saw in every episode were abusive ranchers pushing horses to slaughter while the good guys saved them. The bullying ranchers cutting off water from other people or killing wolves for sport or being abusive over land and water rights. I think the episodes were as accurate as can be. They all showed bullying pushy ranchers stopping environmentalists from checking out water and lands. Maybe its the ranchers that watched too much tv and began to believe thrir actions were ok.

      Liked by 1 person

      • K”The Old West is literally stuck in the old west mentality. ” : so maybe this new AgGag veto from an EASTERN state es perfect chance to call them 0ut and change the direction.


    • Maybe, but this is the most positive move we have seen recently. And considering the Burts Law (employee whistle-blower protection) ,the Governor would have difficulty and Big voices screaming if he signs 1 negating that hard work . (for awhile at least).


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