It’s not just the wild horses targeted by the State of Wyoming now they are taking a shot at YOU!
You can face a $5000.00 fine and up to a year in prison if you share your nature photography with the government, according to a new Wyoming law. The Wyoming Senate just signed Bill 12: Trespassing to collect data (or Date Trespassing Bill). Ostensibly a private property/trespassing law, Bill 12 is incredibly wide-reaching:
The new law is of breathtaking scope. It makes it a crime to “collect resource data” from any “open land,” meaning any land outside of a city or town, whether it’s federal, state, or privately owned. The statute defines the word collect as any method to “preserve information in any form,” including taking a “photograph” so long as the person gathering that information intends to submit it to a federal or state agency. In other words, if you discover an environmental disaster in Wyoming, even one that poses an imminent threat to public health, you’re obliged, according to this law, to keep it to yourself.
“We are deeply concerned that this poorly written and overly vague bill will prevent concerned citizens and students from undertaking valuable research projects on public lands, out of fear of accidentally running afoul of the new law (the scope of which no one clearly understands) and being criminally and civilly prosecuted,” Connie Wilbert, organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter, told ThinkProgress. “There is no need for this new bill, and we can only conclude that it is an attempt by private landowners to scare people away from valid research efforts on public land.”One of the most troubling components of the law, according to Pidot, is that it specifically targets data collected to be shared with the government, a focus he calls “anomalous, bizarre, and radical.” Under the statute, a citizen who uncovers an environmental disaster or public health threat — unless they’ve obtained specific permission from the landowner before collecting that data — would themselves be breaking the law by reporting it to the authorities.
The Clean Water Act clearly articulates that citizens should be involved in helping to keep our water clean. What seems to be at work is all of the E. coli bacteria that people keep finding in Wyoming waterways is really inconvenient.
Why the desire for ignorance rather than informed discussion? The reason is pure politics. The source of E. coli is clear. It comes from cows spending too much time in and next to streams. Acknowledging that fact could result in rules requiring ranchers who graze their cows on public lands to better manage their herds. The ranching community in Wyoming wields considerable political power and has no interest in such obligations, so the state is trying to stop the flow of information rather than forthrightly address the problem.
Considering that Wyoming’s right-wing quackery is so intense that the ACLU is closing up shop there, this isn’t that surprising but it’s no less fortunate either. Will they use this law to criminalize nature photography? No. But they are clearly criminalizing whistle-blowing.