Conservationists Argue at 10th Circuit for Right to Cross Private Lands in Wyoming


DENVER (CN) – A coalition of environmentalist groups took to the 10th Circuit on Monday to argue that it was their First Amendment right to collect water samples from public lands for ecological research.

Western Watersheds Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, and PETA are only a few of the conservation groups that sued Wyoming in September 2015 over two of the state’s new trespass statutes. The coalition claimed the new data trespass laws actively suppressed environmentalists from discovering harmful landowner practices. Western Watersheds, which takes water samples from ranch-adjacent rivers to test for E. coli contamination from livestock, claimed their efforts had been thwarted because they could be penalized for inadvertently crossing over private lands while taking samples.

Although Wyoming passed the laws in 2015, the state amended them in 2016 to clarify that they only applied to private lands, and that the data no longer had to be taken for the purposes of submitting ecological findings to the government to be prohibited.

On Monday, the coalition argued before U.S. Circuit Judges Carlos Lucero, Monroe McKay and Harris Hartz to appeal the decision.

“Wyoming is a jungle of public and private land,” David Muraskin, an attorney for Western Watersheds, said. He added that it was “nearly impossible,” to navigate public lands within private lands while doing the coalition’s kind of work.

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Source:  Courthouse News Service



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