If you aren’t breaking trespass laws, new data law doesn’t apply to you – November 2015

The 2015 legislature passed a couple of bills that strengthen protections for private property. One addresses the criminal trespass statutes and the other addresses the civil trespass statutes.

The laws are pretty straight forward and essentially say that a person is guilty of trespassing to unlawfully collect resource data if he or she does not have legal authorization from the landowner. In addition, the information collected while trespassing can’t be used by a Wyoming government agency. This is merely carrying forward a principle long established by the courts whereby information collected by a law enforcement person cannot be used if it is not collected in a legal fashion. If a law enforcement officer can’t do this then why should an anti-agriculture group, or any individual or group for that matter, expect to be treated any differently?

The laws have groups like Western Watersheds Project all up in arms and they are now suing Wyoming over the law. Apparently they do feel they should get special treatment. This is the same group that obtained a “pro bono” law professor from a Colorado law school to answer the trespass lawsuit by Wyoming landowners because they said they couldn’t afford an attorney. They are being sued for trespassing across private lands to get to the areas where they sampled water. Perhaps one of the three or four staff attorneys for the organization couldn’t be bothered, I don’t really know.

This same pro bono attorney has loudly proclaimed on social media and some conventional media about how this law will throw people in jail that are taking pictures in Yellowstone National Park. This simply isn’t the case.

When contacted by some media outlets we’ve pointed out that if you aren’t trespassing you aren’t affected. In other words the key is: “Are you breaking the trespass laws?” If you aren’t, don’t worry about it. If you are, then yes you should be worried about the law because trespassing is illegal.

I don’t think these organizations are as worried about folks in Yellowstone. I do think these organizations are concerned because in the responses to the landowner’s lawsuit against Western Watersheds Project for trespass, it is apparent they routinely flout the law in order to advance their agenda. After trespassing to obtain water samples, and given their apparent lack of scientific processes and biases, a reasonable person would question the objectivity of the organization.

I guess for them, the ends really do justify the means.

In today’s world it isn’t unreasonable for someone to know where they are; especially if you want to perform some scientific measurements. The first step in any scientific process, like water quality sampling, would be to correctly identify your location. The scientific process requires precise measurements and repeatability is important in order to test the process.

Given Western Watershed’s animosity towards ranchers one should be concerned they might try to “cook the books” in order to fulfill their goal. After all, they’ve demonstrated they adhere to the “ends justifies the means” principle.

Now at least in Wyoming they will be held accountable.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President

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