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Natural Resources & Energy

Data Collection Lawsuit Against State Moves Forward

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A federal judge ruled this week that a case can move forward against the State of Wyoming over two new laws that make collection of data across private property to access public lands illegal. Several environmental and media groups had sued over the laws. Western Watersheds executive director Travis Brunen says the judge didn’t buy the state’s argument that the laws just reinforce existing trespass rules.

“What the judge found last week was that we do have standing,” Brunen says. “We are experiencing a harm because we are now unable to go do our work on behalf of the public to collect information that will protect the environment and our public lands. And that the case can move on to the next step where we’ll be hearing more about the merits of the case.”

In his 38-page decision, Judge Scott Skavdahl says the new laws hide the state's true intent, to discriminate against certain groups of people. 

Brunen says the ruling is good news for the organizations involved in the lawsuit.

“Now that the motion to dismiss has been denied, the case will move forward,” he says. “Most likely the next step will be the motion for summary judgement, which is just essentially a more detailed briefing of all the issues in the case. And then there’s be another hearing associated with those motions a few months from now.”

Brunen says his group will argue the laws are intended to keep organizations like his from sharing data with the government.

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