Enviro gadflies demand right to trespass on your land

Two recently adopted Wyoming statutes, designed to protect farmers and ranchers from “environmental monitoring” of their property by green activists, are now being challenged in court by the very group whose actions on private land inspired passage of the laws.

In 2014, over a dozen ranchers sued the Western Watershed Project (WWP), saying the Idaho-based group had repeatedly trespassed on their property despite direct instructions and plainly written signage to stay off private land. According to the lawsuit, WWP’s trespasses began in 2005 and were undertaken under the pretext of gathering water-quality samples to check for pollution.

“Landowners are not comfortable having an extreme biased organization that has not demonstrated the professional qualifications to collect credible data trespassing their lands.” Cheyenne-based attorney Karen Budd-Falen said at the time the suit was filed. The case is still in litigation.

WWP has denied the allegations, claiming that it found elevated levels of E. coli in water samples it tested and submitted to state environmental officials. As a result of WWP’s submissions, three streams near where the samples were taken were listed as “impaired.” However, confirming the assessment of Budd-Falen, state officials later withdrew the designations, saying the data collected by WWP were not credible.

Switching the Burden of Proof from the
Landowner to the Accused Trespasser

Outrage over widespread reports of trespassing on rural property, together with the dismissal of WWP’s water-quality data by Wyoming officials, prompted legislators last year to pass two new trespassing bills, both of which were signed into law by Republican Gov. Matt mead. “Under the previous trespass laws, the burden was on the landowner to show that people were trespassing and some of our courts were not prosecuting,” Brett Moline, director of public and governmental affairs for the Wyoming Farm Bureau, which supports the new laws, told the Wall Street Journal (Feb.19). Moline says the new laws put the burden on the person collecting data to know when he or she is on private land.

Led by WWP and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), environmental groups are seeking to overturn the statutes in federal court, saying the laws keep people from exposing pollution. And they just might have an ally in U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl, who was appointed to the bench by President Obama. Skavdahl rejected Wyoming’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit in December, citing concern that the statutes may interfere with free speech. Noting that Wyoming already has trespassing laws, he questioned why the news laws were necessary. “When a court purports to protect an interest already protected by existing law, courts have reason to be suspicious of the legislature’s actual intent,” he wrote in his ruling, according to the WSJ.

High Stakes

Judge Skavdahl’s remarks strongly suggest that he will rule to overturn the new statutes. If so, the decision will open the door for self-appointed environmental snoops to look for “pollution” anywhere they can find it on private land. Even if their data are later found to be bogus, as was the case in Wyoming, the aggravation and legal expenses to landowners can be considerable. The stakes are high.

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About the Author: Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT.

  • Frank W Brown

    A Country Founded by Geniuses but Run by Idiots! AND TYRANTS AND BUREAUCRAPS!!!

    If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but 
not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might 
live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or 
to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might 
live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a 
check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not 
to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that 
was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from 
owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty 
F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a 
nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but 
not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make 
you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is
 run by idiots.

    If an 80-year-old woman or a three-year-old girl who is confined to a 
wheelchair can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman 
in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head 
searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but 
is run by idiots.

    If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions 
of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a 
nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his 
teacher is “cute,” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class 
in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation 
that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more 
government regulation and intrusion, while not working is rewarded with 
Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free
 cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses 
but is run by idiots.

    If the government’s plan for getting people back to work is to 
provide incentives for not working, by granting 99 weeks of unemployment 
checks, without any requirement to prove that gainful employment was 
diligently sought, but couldn’t be found — you might live in a nation 
that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest 
big-screen TV, while your neighbor buys iPhones, time shares, a 
wall-sized do-it-all plasma screen TV and new cars, and the government 
forgives his debt when he defaults on his mortgage — you might live in a
 nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If being stripped of your Constitutional right to defend yourself 
makes you more “safe” according to the government — you might live in a 
nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If the media panders to your openly socialist leader while the IRS targets groups with dissenting views— you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If your government ‘cracks down’ on legal gun sales to law abiding citizens while secretly supplying illegal guns to Mexican drug cartels— you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    If your local government (Chicago) outlawed gun ownership for ‘the safety of its citizens’ and now boasts the worst murder rate in the country — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.

    What a country!

    How about we give God a reason to continue blessing America?

    This was borrowed from another blog, authors unknown, please spread it far and wide!

    • Earl W

      Amen! …and it has gone far beyond the “idiot” category and landed squarely in the steel fisted Socialist camp with huge
      dollar signs all over it!

    • reagangs

      This is our new mantra for the IDIOTS that have been shredding our Constitution ever since Abe Lincoln and his criminal war that caused the most destructive actions on the US of A, ever. Then the progressives took over with T Roosevelt, W Wilson, FDR, Truman, LBJ and now Obummer and continued the advancement of socialism and the criminal actions against the Constitution. It’s time to put these commie arse holes in their place, the cess pool.

    • Michael Castillo

      They’re not idiots. It’s part of a deliberate strategy to impose a one party state on us and all of the above are pavestones on the road to Socialism. This strategy includes unlimited resettlement of refugees whether they are suited for life in this country or not, open borders, giving non-citizens voting rights and outright voter fraud. Very obvious voter fraud in FL, OH and PA in the 2012 Presidential/general elections was barely mentioned in the news and received no attention from a Democratic Party controlled DOJ. If not stopped, the “idiots” will turn us into another Venezuela!

      • jaybird

        Also part of Agenda 21, Bureau of Land Mgt/EPA. They want access to the minerals on the property out West. Big fight out there. Do not want the people on the land, wants to move everyone into big cities where they can keep an eye on everyone.Global Elite AH’S.

      • marlene

        Only idiots would attack the rights that allow them to exist in the first place. If they were to get their way, they would lose their voice completely under a totalitarian dictatorship. That is idiotic,

        • Michael Castillo

          I agree with your sentiment, but these people actually believe total control by the government is preferable to self-determination. All you have to do is look at Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua to see the negative effects of Socialism. We have let criminals like Bill Ayers teach and influence our youth. I say we are the idiots for not stopping the totalitaians.

          • marlene

            Yes, I know they believe in total control which is thoughtless and stupid and idiotic beyond their ability to see what their wish will bring them. And you’re right that these gadflies are idiots in the sense of “useful” idiots. It’s the ideology that makes them useful and the lack of wisdom “to see the future consequences of the decisions they make today” that makes them idiots. Not enough of us weren’t idiots. Plenty of us have been watchmen on the walls for decades. The worse things got, the more people went into paralyzed denial. Fear is a useful weapon of dictators.

  • VanceJ

    Trespassers WILL be shot.!!!!!!

  • gerald Hughes

    When you are wandering around on my land you will see that it is heavily posted
    If you see the skull and crossbones on the sign it means owner shoots and then asks what you are doing there.
    There is hole in the ground on my property, no one has ever seen the bottom of it.

  • Clay Fitzgerald

    I can see the possibility of some new anti-trespassing signs being posted such as “WARNING! NO TRESPASSING, Violators will be shot on sight, survivors will be shot again,” “If you want to meet God? Then enter this property without permission,” “WARNING, There is nothing here worth dying for,” and “WARNING! If you can read this you are in range!”

  • Duane L Petersen

    With GPS there is no mistaking where you are so that excuse is out the window. If any of these groups want to get on someone’s property and they have a legitimate reason then go to court and get a warrant. No one has a right to be on someone else’s ground without a court order or that person’s permission.

  • marlene

    All anti-Constitutional, anti-American groups should be thrown in jail for treason! Put one foot on MY property and you’ll never get out alive.

  • Sean Rickmin

    DAMN GREEN WIENIES,damn liberal,socialist s.o.b,s,they think that their saving America.If the green weinies,including and not only Obama and the Clintons get their way,there will be no America to save.They would like us to be a third world country,and easy for them to RULE.

  • Ron Roy

    I have no problem with eco freaks trespassing on my land my compost pile could use the extra nitrogen.

  • Dano2

    Whoa. Pro Ag-gag laws? Srsly?

    Pathetic.

    Best,

    D

  • Dano2

    Aside from the paid umbrage to decry ag-gag laws, for the other stuff a drone can be flown. Not an issue, so not sure how the PR firm could justify paying for this outrage.

    Best,

    D

    • Rick Vitti

      Drones to be flown over personal property? Skeet and trap shooting practice!!

      • Dano2

        Do you try and shoot down airplanes too? Helicopters?

        Best,

        D

  • Rick Vitti

    Trespassers used to be dealt with privately…Maybe it’s time to get back to those days

  • far2right

    Come on my property.

    I could use more target practice.

  • Li D

    How do yas all feel about polluters coming
    on to your land, and polluting it?
    Good? Bad? Indifferent?

  • ninetyninepct

    A shotgun works better than a No Trespassing sign.