Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

A disgusting misuse of governmental power to protect business interests over public safety!

Wyoming Law May Keep Citizens From Reporting Environmental Problems

A new Wyoming law that is ostensibly designed to protect landowners is actually a not-so-subtle attempt at making it difficult for regular citizens to report pollution in the state’s waterways, according to opponents.

In a state that is, ironically, known for having independent thinkers and wanting limited government, Wyoming legislators passed a law earlier this year making it illegal to collect data about anything in Wyoming’s environment if you plan to share that information with the federal or state government.

In another words, if you come across a stream filled with cow dung, don’t take a photo and send it to the Environmental Protection Agency unless you’re OK with facing legal action from the Cowboy State.

The reason? According to environmentalists, it’s exactly what you think it is: politics.

The Details of the Wyoming Environmental Law

Wyoming Law against EnvironmentalistsThe Wyoming statute makes it illegal to collect data from open land in the state. Specifically, it states: “’Collect’ means to take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.”

And, what, exactly is “open land?” Basically every bit of Wyoming outside incorporated towns and subdivisions, and data is described as almost anything not related to property surveying.

Law Called Unconstitutional

Writing in Slate magazine, Justin Pidot, an assistant professor at the University of Denver, noted that even those with a passing knowledge of the law know this statute is unconstitutional. Pidot argued that the law is meant to keep people from reporting on the pollution of streams by e coli bacteria, a contamination that starts with cattle in or near Wyoming waterways.

If too many people find contamination, he wrote, than Wyoming officials might get pressured into passing laws requiring ranchers to better manage herds, a situation no politician wants to face in a state where ranchers wield substantial political power.

While Idaho and Utah have similar laws – known as “ag gag” laws that prohibit going onto private land to take photos or videos – the Wyoming one is more sweeping, according to Pidot.

Pidot also points out that federal law – including the Clean Water Act – actually encourages citizens to be on the watch for environmental issues, knowing that government agencies cannot manage it all alone.

Defending the Law

Rep. David Miller, the Republican legislator who oversees the committee that produced the bill, told Fox News that the bill was not designed to keep people from taking pictures of Wyoming nature.

Rather, he said, it’s designed to protect landowners from having people come onto their property and take pictures or water samples without permission from the landowner. The fine for collecting data is up to $5,000 or one year in jail.

The law also requires any state agency currently holding data collected without permission on private lands to destroy it immediately.

No one has yet been charged under the new law, which just became law this spring. Considering the fact that both the Idaho and Utah laws are being challenged at the federal law, you can expect to same to happen with the Wyoming law.

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