Conservationists say statute remains unlawful despite revisions

Cheyenne, Wyoming– Yesterday, a coalition of public interest advocacy organizations again challenged the unlawful parts of Wyoming’s anti-data statutes. Western Watersheds Project, National Press Photographers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amended lawsuit against Wyoming officials for the enactment of the “Data Censorship Laws,” which, even after revision, still bar citizens from reporting environmentally damaging activities.

The “Data Censorship Laws,” Wyoming Statute § 6-3-414 and § 40-27-101 were originally designed to prevent individuals and organizations from documenting harmful environmental activities on federal, state, and private property, and from reporting any violations to federal and state authorities. After the conservation groups’ legal challenge was filed in September 2015, the Wyoming legislature reframed the laws and passed the revised statutes last month.

However, even the revised laws are still deeply flawed. From selectively punishing individuals for collecting information about certain subjects, to imposing criminal and civil liability on persons who collect specific types of data on private lands, the laws can still be used to punish persons acting in the public interest who sample polluted water, document illegal mining activities, film animal abuse, and gather other forms of “data.”

“The revised laws are still un-American at the core,” said Jonathan Ratner, Wyoming Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Any law passed specifically to protect polluters, exploiters, and abusers from public scrutiny is fundamentally at odds with our freedom of speech and right to know.”

“The legislature tried to void this suit: they failed. These laws put the State of Wyoming way out of line with the ideals America is based on,” said Michael Wall, Senior Attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council.

Most other states have abandoned pursuing “ag-gag” legislation, though the push continues from big agricultural industry lobbyists and the lawmakers they fund. Republican governors have vetoed similar bills, and state legislatures are increasingly rejecting or abandoning them. Ag-gag bills are at their lowest numbers in more than half a decade.

“No matter how cleverly they are written, they cannot circumvent the constitution and no matter how slickly they are marketed, they cannot fool the public. Wyoming is wasting its citizens’ money and the judiciary’s time by continuing to fight for this unnecessary and unconstitutional law,” said Ratner.

The amended complaint is online here (pdf).

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One Response to Wyoming Data Censorship Laws Are Still Illegal

  1. avatar Tim Bondy says:

    #1. The pdf link is blocked by my browser’s firewall.
    #2. I hear a lot of people saying “that law is unconstitutional” these days. Who’s responsibility is it to repeal laws that are unconstitutional? I would assume that responsibility and full authority lays with the state’s legislature? Assuming is my weakness.

    My point is, who would I contact in my state government to have the “unconstitutionality” of a law investigated. At least I could get some answers regarding the issue and an office I can hold responsible for keeping unconstitutional laws off the book. Conversely, a lot of people’s claim that a law is unconstitutional would be nullified.

    FYI: I’m not doubting the unconstitutional claim in this post.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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