A WyoFile reader submitted this photo and caption that shows the kind of image that plaintiffs say could be made illegal by Wyoming's data trespass laws: "Avoiding cow shit (and hopefully E. coli) while searching for native Colorado cutthroat in Bridger-Teton National Forest." (Andrew Bennett)

Plaintiffs suing to overturn Wyoming’s data trespass laws filed a response Tuesday to the state’s motion to dismiss. The laws make it illegal to collect data on “open land” — defined as anywhere outside of a city or subdivision where the data collector has no ownership interest — without permission.

The plaintiffs include Western Watersheds Project, the National Press Photographers Association, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Center for Food Safety.

Their Nov. 10 response argues the following six points:

Plaintiffs have standing to sue.

  • The data trespass laws have chilled freedom of speech and First Amendment rights.
  • Groups stopped collecting data on public lands in summer 2015 because they feared prosecution.

Data collection is free speech protected by the Petition Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

  • The data trespass laws punish those who intend to communicate data to the government.

The data trespassing laws regulate based on the content of speech.

  • Laws regulating speech must be narrowly tailored to achieve compelling state interest.

Data trespassing laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

  • The laws target a specific group: data collectors.

Federal law preempts the data trespassing laws.

  • Wyoming’s data trespass laws conflict with laws passed by Congress, including provisions in the Clean Water Act that provide for citizen assistance in water quality monitoring.

The Governor should not be dismissed from the suit.

  • Plaintiffs argue Gov. Matt Mead is a proper defendant because he has responsibility for maintaining resource data.


Gov. Matt Mead, Attorney General Peter Michael, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality director Todd Parfitt, and the attorneys for Lincoln, Sublette, and Fremont counties.

Click here to read the a summary of the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

Read the plaintiff’s memorandum opposing the state’s motion to dismiss:

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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