Actually, I take this as an indicator of the advantage of dealing with the state vs the feds. Had this been in federal court, the outcome would likely have been the opposite. — jtl, 419
By BEN NEARY Associated Press via Casper Star Tribune
Groups including the Western Watersheds Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Press Photographers Association sued Wyoming last year.
The groups claimed state laws prohibiting trespassing to collect data were unconstitutional. The groups said the laws, which allowed both civil penalties and criminal prosecution, would block people from informing government regulators about such things as violations of water quality rules and illegal treatment of animals.
“The ends, no matter how critical or important to a public concern, do not justify the means, violating private property rights,” Skavdahl wrote.
Skavdahl last winter expressed concerns about earlier versions of the laws, which the Wyoming Legislature had passed early last year. The earlier versions sought to prohibit collection of data on “open lands,” a term Skavdahl said could be stretched to cover more than just private property.
Gov. Matt Mead on Thursday said he was pleased with Skavdahl’s dismissal of the groups’ lawsuit.
“There has been a lot of misinformation about the intent of this law,” Mead said. “The judge’s ruling affirms that the issue at the heart of the matter is preserving private property rights — a fundamental right in our country.”
David Muraskin, a lawyer representing Western Watersheds and the National Press Photographers Association, said Thursday that his clients are disappointed with Skavdahl’s ruling and are considering whether to appeal.
“We think it fails to recognize the state is seeking to limit the speech and government participation of a variety of groups,” Muraskin said of the ruling.
Muraskin emphasized Wyoming law doesn’t require that a person intend to enter onto private property to be found guilty of trespassing. He said it’s easy for people to inadvertently enter private land, saying there are instances where even government roads built on easements over private property don’t follow the same route on the ground as shown on official property records.
“We’re talking about whether the state can set out to suppress speech,” Muraskin said. “No one here is disagreeing with the fact that the state can regulate certain activities. No one is saying that the state can’t make a law saying you can’t go on people’s property.”
Rather, Muraskin said the revised state law violates the Constitution by seeking to specify that people can’t go onto other peoples’ property to gather information that allows them to exercise their right to speak.
“When someone does that, it makes people afraid to go out and get any kind of information,” he said. “That’s a bedrock principle in the Constitution.”
A Handbook for Ranch Managers. In keeping with the “holistic” idea that the land, the livestock, the people and the money should be viewed as a single integrated whole: Part I deals with the management of the natural resources. Part II covers livestock production and Part III deals with the people and the money. Not only would this book make an excellent basic text for a university program in Ranch Management, no professional ranch manager’s reference bookshelf should be without it. It is a comprehensive reference manual for managing the working ranch. The information in the appendices and extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.
You might also be interested in the supplement to this Handbook: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.