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New Ground Rules: Judge Strikes Down Wyoming Data Trespass Laws

A view of reclaimed land that is being utilized for cattle grazing near North Antelope Rochelle coal mine near Gillette, Wyoming, U.S. June 1, 2016. Reclaimed land is land that is brought back to it’s pre-mining use. REUTERS/Kristina Barker

A federal judge struck down two of Wyoming’s “ag-gag” laws that barred the collection of environmental research data on public and private land. The judge ruled that the recently passed “data trespass” statutes are unconstitutional and violate free speech protections, siding with two environmental groups and a photography association.

The laws criminalized trespassing private land to collect resource data, as well as crossing private land to reach public land for data collection purposes. Collecting research data includes activities such as taking samples and photographs of land.

“There is simply no plausible reason for the specific curtailment of speech in the statutes beyond a clear attempt to punish individuals for engaging in protected speech that at least some find unpleasant,” the judge wrote.

For an explainer on Ag-Gag laws, click here.

Associated Press Casper Star-Tribune Jurist Decision