Criminalization of Data Collection

 Cattle
From Climate Law Blog, disturbing news about a “recently passed Wyoming law now criminalizes certain kinds of data collection: specifically, unauthorized collection of natural resource data.”  Here’s an excerpt:
The new Wyoming Senate Enrolled Act No. 61 outlaws the collection of “resource data” on any “open land” – private, state, or even (under some interpretations) federal land – if the collector does not have landowner authorization, and the collector submits or intends to submit that data to the state or federal government. The law also criminalizes even unintentional trespass if done to collect resource data, and even if the unintentional trespass is committed on the way to collecting resource data from an authorized location.
* * *
The Wyoming legislature reacted by passing Senate Enrolled Act No. 61, in order “to conceal the fact that many of its streams are contaminated by E. coli bacteria,” writes Justin Pidot, an environmental law professor at the University of Denver and a pro bono attorney for the Western Watersheds Project. (Or, as the Washington Post put it, “Wyoming doesn’t want you to know how much cow poop is in its water.”) As Pidot explains, the “ranching community in Wyoming wields considerable political power.” The Western Watersheds Project has tried to show that cattle farms are polluting public waterways and has argued that is being “targeted by ranchers for exposing poor water quality conditions on public lands grazing allotments.”
* * *
Not surprisingly, the law has been widely criticized for “criminalizing science.” And while the law’s proponents have dismissed such criticism as “inflammatory rhetoric,” the Wyoming scientific community has expressed fears about how this may affect the ability to conduct research. (The University of Wyoming lobbied unsuccessfully for an academic exemption.) The law also impedes citizen science which, as Pidot has pointed out, has “long played an important role in gathering information to support better regulations” – but now, if “you discover an environmental disaster in Wyoming, you’re obliged, according to this law, to keep it to yourself.”
Read entire post here.   (Thanks to Naomi Oreskes for sharing this with us.)
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