Western Watersheds v. Michael, No. 16-8083 (10th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In addition to a generally applicable law of trespass, Wyoming enacted a pair of statutes imposing civil and criminal liability upon any person who “[c]rosses private land to access adjacent or proximate land where he collects resource data.” In light of the broad definitions provided in the statutes, the phrase “collects resource data” included numerous activities on public lands, such as writing notes on habitat conditions, photographing wildlife, or taking water samples, so long as an individual also records the location from which the data was collected. Plaintiff advocacy organizations, filed suit to challenge the 2015-enacted Wyoming statutes. The Tenth Circuit concluded the statutes regulated protected speech under the First Amendment and that they were not shielded from constitutional scrutiny merely because they touched upon access to private property. 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. Therefore, the Court reversed and remanded that the statutes were not entitled to First Amendment protection, and remanded for further proceedings.