US State Makes It Illegal To Collect Evidence Of Pollution On Public Property


by John Vibes at


The state of Wyoming recently passed Senate Bill 12, the Data Trespass Bill, which will prevent people from collecting evidence of pollution, even on public lands. The bill prohibits the “collecting of information” on property that the person does not own, even public and federal land.

According to the text of the bill, it is now illegal to “take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.”

Simply taking a picture or collecting trash from a polluted stream could lead to $5,000 in fines and a year in prison.

Justin Pidot, an assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law recently toldThink Progress that, “People on the ground, who have been engaged in this kind of data collection in the past, now have to face the worry about being potentially prosecuted. The chilling effect on citizen participation is huge.”

“This is sort of a new tactic we’re seeing, where state governments are trying to build legal rules that prevent people from uncovering information about favored industrial groups. I think it’s very concerning as a phenomenon,” he added.

Even collecting evidence or photos from a national park could lead to criminal charges.

We are deeply concerned that this poorly written and overly vague bill will prevent concerned citizens and students from undertaking valuable research projects on public lands, out of fear of accidentally running afoul of the new law (the scope of which no one clearly understands) and being criminally and civilly prosecuted,” Connie Wilbert of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

These laws are similar to the “ag-gag” laws that prevent activists from collecting evidence from factory farms.

The first Ag Gag prosecution to occur in the United States happened in Utah, in 2013.  Amy Meyer filmed a live cow being hauled away in a bulldozer at a slaughterhouse.  She was doing this from a public street.  The facility owner confronted her and then called the cops.

Since that incident ag-gag legislation has been proposed in a number of different states, and may possibly end up as a federal policy as well.

“What do we, as a society, believe is the role of citizens in ensuring that truthful information about wrongful conduct is made available, to both the public and the government? In the absence of that information, the government has the luxury of pretending there aren’t any problems,” Pidot said.

This article (US State Makes It Illegal To Collect Evidence Of Pollution On Public Property) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his

Get Your Anonymous T-Shirt / Sweatshirt / Hoodie / Tanktop, Smartphone or Tablet Cover or Mug In Our Spreadshirt Shop! Click Here

Remove all ads by clicking here


  1. So those “twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin’ what each one was, to be used as evidence” in Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” would be illegaly obtained evidence today & inadmissable in court? 🙂

  2. The federal court is challenging the bill. This bill would make it illegal to photograph anything in a park in Yellowstone.


    Time for clever hackers to design a work-around for this: An anonymous distributed site where the pollution images and videos can be uploaded anonymously as evidence and displayed with their GPS and time coordinates for confirmation.

  4. the government may have the power, but we the people, have the numbers. I say we finally show them who should be afraid of who…
    corporate sellouts and lowlifes run this country, there is nothing tough about them, that’s why they have the police and the army to do their bidding.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here