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Wyoming GOP Law Criminalizes Collecting Evidence Of Pollution On Public Land

A law passed by Wyoming Republicans officially makes it illegal for citizens to collect evidence of pollution on public land that could lead to a government investigation of environmental destruction.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed Senate Bill 12 into law in March making it a criminal offense to “collect resource data,” such as photographs of polluted waterways and land that is private, public, or federal outside of city limits. Violators of the law could face a $5,000 fine and/or prison time.

According to ThinkProgress,

Under the law “collect” means 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.”

The laws says that only citizens who are given express permission to collect such evidence can actually do so, which quite frankly makes it easier for public and private employees to cover up environmental wrongdoing. For example, if a cattle rancher allows his herd to graze too close to public waterways on public land and the cattle cause an E. coli outbreak in the water that could poison people, citizens who collect evidence of this to report to government agencies would be subject to prosecution. In short, the law is an effort to silence and censor whisteblowers and environmental activists from proving that landowners are illegally polluting public lands.

The Wyoming Sierra Club condemned the law in a statement to ThinkProgress as a broad effort to prevent scientific research and other efforts to help protect the environment.

“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. There is no need for this new bill, and we can only conclude that it is an attempt by private landowners to scare people away from valid research efforts on public land.”

This effort by Wyoming Republicans happened at the same time that Republicans in the United States Senate voted unanimously to sell public lands, including national forests and waterways, to states whose conservative governments will likely turn around and sell those lands to private industry for mining, logging, and drilling.

It all sounds like an all out war against our environment. An environment that is already in critical condition due to exploitation and a failure to protect it from people who would rather ruin it in the name of profit.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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