(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:

The Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”), National Water and Climate Center. See Volunteer Snow Surveyors,, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). In Montana, these agencies educate citizens on data collection; the data is used to help forecast future water supplies based on snow pack and melt rates. See id.; see also Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) and Snow Course Data and Products, Nat. Resources Conservation Serv., (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). 


The National Park Service manages the Glacier National Park Citizen Science Program in coordination with the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center (“CCRLC”). Citizen Science, Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center, Nat’l Park Serv., (last updated Aug. 23, 2017). The Program “engages park visitors, students, and staff in collection of scientific information that would otherwise be unavailable to resource managers and researchers.” See id. The two current citizen science projects under this Program are the Common Loon Citizen Science Project and High Country Citizen Science Project. See id. 

State Project(s):

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s (“DEQ”) Volunteer Monitoring Support Program supports volunteer water quality monitoring in several ways: (1) Financial support, such as the Volunteer Monitoring Lab Analysis Program; (2) Technical support, such as trainings and guidance documents; (3) Administering volunteer monitoring opportunities; and (4) Forming partnerships with other entities in the state that also support volunteer monitoring. See Monitoring Water Quality, Mont. Dep’t of Envtl. Quality, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). Under this grant program, DEQ helps fund the volunteer water quality monitoring group, Montana Watercourse.  See Water Monitoring, Montana Water Center, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).  

Collection of Information:

Ag-Gag Law:

“A person who does not have the effective consent of the owner and who intends to damage the enterprise conducted at an animal facility may not…

(b) enter an animal facility that is at the time closed to the public with the intent to commit an act prohibited by this chapter;

(c) remain concealed in an animal facility with the intent to commit an act prohibited by this chapter;

(d) enter an animal facility and commit or attempt to commit an act prohibited by this chapter;

(e) enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal defamation; or

(f) enter or remain on the premises of an animal facility if the person:

(i) had notice that the entry was forbidden; or

(ii) received notice to depart but failed to do so.”  Mont. Code Ann. § 81-30-103(2).


“Animal facility” includes “a vehicle, building, structure, research facility, or premises where an animal is lawfully kept, handled, housed, exhibited, bred, or offered for sale.”  Id. § 81-30-102(2).



“(1) A person convicted of violating 81-30-103(2)(f) shall be fined not less than $50 or more than $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 3 months, or both.

(2) A person convicted of an act that violates… (2)(a) through (2)(e) and that results in $500 or less in damage or destruction shall be fined not more than $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both.

(3) A person convicted of an act that violates… (2)(a) through (2)(e) and that results in more than $500 in damage or destruction shall be fined not more than $50,000 or be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 10 years, or both.” Id. § 81-30-105. 

Scientific Collection Permit:

A permit is required to “take, kill, capture, and possess…any birds, fish, or animals protected by Montana law” for scientific purposes. Mont. Code Ann. § 87-2-806(1); see also Mont. Admin. R. 12.7.1301; Scientific Fish & Wildlife Permit Applications, Mont. Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

Trespass Laws:

Criminal Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

No.  “[A] person commits the offense of criminal trespass to property if the person knowingly…enters or remains unlawfully in or upon the premises of another.” Mont. Code Ann. § 45-6-203(1)(b) (emphasis added).


“Privilege to enter or remain upon land is extended by [a landowner’s] explicit permission. . . or by the failure of the landowner . . . to post notice denying entry [.]”  Id. § 45-6-201(1).

Other Provisions:

See supra “Ag-Gag Law.”

Drone Laws:

Interference with Aerial Wildfire Suppression Response Effort:

“(1) A person may not obstruct, impede, prevent, or otherwise interfere with a lawful aerial wildfire suppression response by a state or local government effort by any means, including by the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle system.


(2) A person who violates subsection (1) is liable for a civil penalty to the state or local government for an amount equivalent to the reasonable costs of obstructing, impeding, preventing, or interfering with an aerial wildfire suppression response effort. The penalty may not exceed the actual flight costs of the aerial wildfire suppression response effort that was obstructed, impeded, prevented, or interfered with.” Mont. Code Ann. § 76-13-214.


Local governments are prohibited from enacting “an ordinance governing the private use of an unmanned aerial vehicle in relation to a wildfire.” Mont. Code Ann. § 7-1-111(20).

State Parks:

“(1) Launching or operating an unmanned aircraft system, drone, or model aircraft from a state park is prohibited unless:

(a) use is authorized by a commercial use or special use permit; or

(b) use occurs within an area specifically designated for such use by the park manager.” Mont. Admin. R. 12.8.816.

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law:

“(1) A person commits the offense of stalking if the person purposely or knowingly causes another person substantial emotional distress or reasonable apprehension of bodily injury or death by repeatedly:

(a)  following the stalked person; or

(b)  harassing, threatening, or intimidating the stalked person, in person or by mail, electronic communication, as defined in 45-8-213, or any other action, device, or method.

(2) This section does not apply to constitutionally protected activity.”  Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-220.

Use of Information:

Although our research is incomplete, these provisions address the use of information collected by citizens.

Explicitly Prohibits:

Montana prohibits the use of information from an “unmanned aerial vehicle,” in any proceeding within the state, “unless the information was obtained: 

  1. Pursuant to the authority of a search warrant; or
  2. In accordance with judicially recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement.” Mont. Code Ann. § 46-5-109(1).

Explicitly Allows:

Montana’s Supreme Court clarified that information collected by private citizens, even in the course of a trespass, falls into the category of “judicially recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement,” unless they are acting as “agents of the state.” See State v. Christensen, 797 P.2d 893, 896–97 (Mont. 1990).

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that “the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.”  Mont. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(3).

Authentication or Chain of Custody:

“The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.”  Mont. R. Evid. 901(a).

Expert Testimony:

Montana Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert standard, but only for novel science.  See State v. Damon, 119 P.3d 1194, 1197-98 (Mont. 2005).


Please note that this discussion is not moderated by the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.