The allegations of trespass relate to water quality data collected by WWP between 2005 and 2011 that demonstrate levels of bacterial contamination many times the legal limit on public lands and waterways. Once the livestock permittees were alerted by the Wyoming Department of Water Quality that streams on Bureau of Land Management grazing allotments were going to be listed as "impaired waters," the ranchers filed a lawsuit claiming that WWP must have trespassed to collect the data. To date, the ranchers have failed to prove this to be the case. In a startling argument, the Ranchers argue that dangerous contamination of rural Wyoming waters is not a concern because so few people live nearby. In its Reply, WWP argues that every individual Wyomingan has a right to be safe from contaminated waters.
"The Plaintiffs are pursuing this trespass lawsuit not because of any perceived trespass, but rather because the ranchers dislike the work that WWP is doing to shed light on the ecological impacts of their Wyoming operations," said Justin Pidot. "WWP proved the waters were polluted with livestock-caused E.coli bacteria. Rather than clean up their act, the ranchers are seeking to shut WWP down."
"State and federal law recognize that citizens have an important role to play in detecting water pollution that threatens public health," said Justin Marceau. "The state simply lacks the money and staff to monitor every river and stream. This lawsuit attempts to penalize WWP for fulfilling this important role by providing information to the state about the health of waterways on public lands."
"It seems obvious, especially with the Wyoming legislature proposing new laws that would prohibit regulators from considering data, that the powers-that-be in Wyoming are coming after our work, through the courts or through the statehouse," said Travis Bruner, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. "It's a shame that the livestock industry lobby in Wyoming is trumping the public interest in the ecological condition of the land."