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Western Watersheds Project v. Wyoming

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20110
Nos. 16-8083, (10th Cir., 09/07/2017)

The Tenth Circuit held that a Wyoming law that imposed civil and criminal liability on those who cross private property to access adjacent land to collect resource data violates the First Amendment. In 2015, Wyoming enacted a pair of statutes that prohibited individuals from entering “open land for the purpose of collecting resource data” without permission from the owner. The term “resource data” was defined as “data relating to land or land use,” including that related to “air, water, soil, conservation, habitat, vegetation or animal species.” The statutes also required government agencies to expunge data collected in violation of the provisions and forbade the agencies from considering such data “in determining any agency action.” Advocacy organizations filed a suit to challenge the statutes, arguing that the statutes violated the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. The court agreed with the groups, holding that although trespassing does not enjoy First Amendment protection, the statutes at issue target the “creation” of speech by imposing heightened penalties on those who collect resource data. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the holding.