Wyoming can now put you in jail for sharing nature photos with the government

by Walter Einenkel as published in The Dailey KOS

It’s not just the wild horses targeted by the State of Wyoming now they are taking a shot at YOU!

This shot is actually illegal to take according to new bill.

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.

As ThinkProgress points out:

“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.

35 comments on “Wyoming can now put you in jail for sharing nature photos with the government

  1. Why should the state of Wyoming be able to dictate what we do on our public land? This law sounds unconstitutional and unreasonable. I wonder what they are so anxious to hide?

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  2. Honestly their law cannot stop people from doing anything on Federal Lands. The Federal Law takes precident and the public lands are not governed by the individual state so they cannot step in and take land for that reason. The law cant apply to public lands that are run by Federal Agencies allowing general public to do what the Agency prescribed. Wyoming is losing its senses

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    • This guy doesn’t even deserve to be called human – I sure do hope he gets actually punished with 3 felonies. It seems (after reading the affidavit) that there were quite a few people who KNEW about the stallion and the calf. Yet it took from December, 2014 until the end of March 2015 to actually get anything done??????? Is it that hard to turn someone in for animal abuse in Montana? Apparently, when someone finally did make an anonymous call – the deputy was sent out there. But I have to say, why in the world was it left up to this “owner” to put the animals down? Even the vets didn’t sound that concerned – according to the affidavit. How could anyone look at that horse & just take pictures – then walk away…..
      I guess it seems very clear – after the fact – but honestly, looking at just the stallion – how could anyone sleep at night without attempting to help him??

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      • Maggie, I’m guessing the stud’s semen was sold for this spring to multiple mare owners, and the money already spent so not easily refundable. Not condoning what happened here at all… especially since there is no shortage of overbreeding of registered horses. The right thing to do was put the horse down as soon as it was clear he couldn’t be healed, then refund or trade out services to the folks who already booked breedings with this poor old stud horse.

        Seems it’s a lot easier in MT to own a down horse than to own up to a mistake!

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  3. Are they are preparing for some future event(s)….something that could happen on public land? This would also apply to any photos taken as evidence in the state of Wyoming, not only agriculture related, but anything else. Read between the lines…

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  4. This law stems from Western Watershed taking soil and water samples in the Checkerboard area–he had to pass through private land to get to public land and they want to shut down his and anyone’s ability to do so. This law needs to be challenged–somehow I think that will most likely happen sooner as opposed to later.

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  5. This suit is against WWP but (to me) it exemplifies a method to discredit whistleblowers. Per the legal documents within the article, the Wyoming water quality standard requires that E.coli bacteria shall not exceed 126 organisms per 100 milliliters but some of the WWP water samples detected 24,196 organisms per 100 milliliters … so did the ranchers have something to hide? You betcha.

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  6. Smacks of government corruption the likes that Erin Brockovich had to circumvent to get to the truth. Bad legislation and definitely ties in to the Ag Gag issues. What the hell is the government hiding this time? What happened to Lincoln’s, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”? It’s more like the people need to be able to SAVE THE EARTH with any evidence that speaks the truth. #WarOnWildHorses

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  7. Get a life!!! They are surely NUTS!!! With all the other problems going on. If I lived in Wyoming these characters would be on their way out, even if I had to run against them myself. Talk about violation of ones rights!!! A good lawyer would take them to task!! What a joke!!!! I guess they don’t want any tourists. Don’t they take photographs of family vacations. Do they need approval??? If it wasn’t so sad, I laugh myself til my sides ached!!!

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  8. So..do they not all drink the same water in Wyoming?
    Or….will just the “special” people have clean water while everyone else gets what’s left?

    DONT DRINK THE FRACKING FLUIDS!
    http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/2013/07/09/dont-drink-the-fracking-fluids!/

    EPA has just posted proposed new water discharge permits for the nearly dozen oil fields on or abutting the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming (EPA has Clean Water Act jurisdiction on tribal lands). Besides not even listing the array of toxic chemicals being discharged, the proposed permits have monitoring requirements so weak that water can be tested long after fracking events or maintenance flushing. In addition, the permits lack any provisions to protect the health of wildlife or livestock

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    • In case the photo with Chief Seattle’s quote did not come thru: “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.

      Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely strands in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.”

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  9. What about ranchers who graze public lands and must keep photographic records (at specific sites) at least annually to document management practices? Will they also be violating the law, since they are just citizens documenting practices on public lands? Any compliance reporting required by state or federal law would seem to come under this “law” such that they would all constitute violations. I doubt this could hold up under a constitutional challenge, which will surely be forthcoming.

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  10. Same story … different author and this one includes a copy of the legal complaint and the legal motion to dismiss if anyone wants to read them.

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    • Daryl, for starters …

      1) Per the legal documents within the article, the Wyoming water quality standard requires that E.coli bacteria shall not exceed 126 organisms per 100 milliliters but some of the WWP water samples detected 24,196 organisms per 100 milliliters.
      [“Drinking water should have no E. coli after treatment.” and even swimming beaches should not exceed 88 per 100 milliliter]
      http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/bb/documents/bb-14.pdf ]

      2) Extensive “serious and willful” domestic livestock trespass on our public lands. I have witnessed this myself – but not in WY.

      3) From memory … a few years back in Wyoming within an HMA there was a water source that had been contaminated by leaching from a mine or oil/gas well and it was documented that numerous domestic livestock died from drinking the contaminated water … but although this was in the middle of an HMA … there was no mention of the wild horses dying. Take a look at the “zillions” of oil/gas wells and the big mines in Wyoming on google earth.

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  11. Wyoming has some of the most valuable sub-surface natural resources in the world—both in their variety and they abundance. There are stories of oil seeping through the ground as far back as the pre-civil war days. It is highly probably that the entire reason our wild horses and burros became exotic in the first place is due to Canadian multinational groups trying to find a way to get access to the Green Valley formation. In order for this group to get to the oil, uranium, molybdenum, they had to find a way to get the wild horses and burros removed from the land. During the period between the time they devised their plan and began to executive it, they began to realize that most of the country has highly valuable natural resource areas. This could be inferred from the fact that the land provided forage for wild horses for over 55 million years—and it likely was.

    The goal is to remove all livestock grazing and wild horses from not only public but private land.

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  12. Communist Wyoming…..who needs to go overseas to visit a dictatorship…..just visit Wyoming….. Oh realize that people are stupid but this is ridiculous. They better clean house in their government.

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  13. The problem still lies with the people and their choice on government representatives. Keep supporting their communist dictators and this is what happens to their government…….dumb asses..

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  14. Food for thought:
    I don’t like the “big brother” attitude of spying on our fellow Americans but when someone knowingly commits a crime against our fellow Americans (or even our neighbor) and I am aware of it and do not try to stop it or report it so it can be stopped and the criminal punished … then am I not also guilty as an “accessory” to the crime?

    An “accessory” must generally have knowledge that a crime is being, or will be committed. A person with such knowledge may become an accessory simply by failing to report the crime to a proper authority.

    If I know my neighbor is willfully abusing a child or animal and do not try to stop it and/or report it to authorities so that it can be stopped … am I not also guilty as an accessory?

    If I know that someone is willfully allowing their domestic livestock to contaminate waters on our public land and do not report it am I therefore not an accessory to the crime?

    If I know livestock trespass is willfully happening on our public lands and do not report it am I not an accessory to the crime?

    With this new Wyoming law … if I knew a crime against our fellow Americans was happening and DID report it could I then be arrested for reporting it?

    This entire train of thought would not even be an issue if we followed the old golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them to unto you” but unfortunately those days seem to be over and most criminals appear to be out for only one thing … themselves.

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