November 11, 2015
Online Messenger #324
Western Watersheds Project and our allies filed suit against the State of Wyoming at the end of September for its unconstitutional data censorship laws which effectively criminalize free speech about natural resources. Yesterday’s filing is our response to Wyoming’s motion to get the case dismissed, and it provides more compelling evidence as to why our litigation is critically important to the defense of free speech and wild places.
Wyoming claims, repeatedly, that the new laws are only about trespassing, and if one isn’t trespassing, one doesn’t need to worry about it. In reality, the language of the two laws imposes civil and criminal liability on anyone who collects “resource data” and communicates it to the government after entering “open land,” land which could be federal, state or local under the laws’ vague definitions. The laws are highly subjective and the penalties unfair.
The statutes have already had a chilling effect on the plaintiff groups, and resulted in the halt of WWP’s summer water quality monitoring in Wyoming during 2016. The laws are so loosely worded that our work on federal lands could be subject to sanction. This is a shame, since the people who are violating the Clean Water Act and other federal laws are the real criminals, but Wyoming is letting them hide their dirty deeds behind this unconstitutional law.
Our co-plaintiffs are Natural Resources Defense Council, and Center for Food Safety, National Press Photographers Association, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Many of these groups also work to expose industry abuses and are the types of advocates the laws target.
There’s something rotten in the state of Wyoming, and it’s not public interest environmental groups exposing industry abuses. Hopefully, the judge will be able to identify the source of the smell.