(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center is seeking volunteers in Southeast Texas to help study the effects of carbon dioxide on baldcypress swamps. See North American Baldcypress Swamp Volunteer Network, U.S. Geological Surv. Nat’lWetlands Res. Ctr., https://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/special/bald-cypress/index.htm (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). Volunteers help collect samples and photograph the research sites. Id. The project is specifically seeking volunteers from Fort Bend County. Id.


Texas Stream Team is a collaboration of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) in an on-going statewide program of citizen water quality monitoring and outreach. See Statewide: Texas Stream Team - Volunteers Monitoring Water Quality, Tex. Commission on Envtl. Quality, https://www.tceq.texas.gov/waterquality/nonpoint-source/projects/texas-stream-team (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). “This citizen scientist program increases public knowledge of water quality issues through trained volunteers who conduct water quality monitoring on their local lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries across the state.” Id.

State Project(s):

Texas Parks and Wildlife manages multiple wildlife observation citizen science projects through Texas Nature Trackers (“TNT”), part of the Wildlife Diversity Program. See Texas Nature Trackers, Tex. Parks & Wildlife, https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). This program tracks the status of wild populations of plants and animals throughout Texas, such as Herps, Terrestrial Mollusks, Mammals, Birds, Freshwater Mussels, Red Crowned Parrot, Bees and Wasps, and more. See Texas Nature Trackers Projects, Tex. Parks & Wildlife, https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/projects/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). 

Collection of Information:

Research Permit:

A Scientific Permit for Research is required to collect, take, or salvage wildlife for scientific purposes. See Tex. Parks & Wild. Code Ann. § 43.022(e); Wildlife Diversity Permits: Scientific Permit for Research, Tex. Parks & Wildlife Dep’t, https://tpwd.texas.gov/business/permits/land/wildlife/research/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). 

Trespass Laws:

Criminal Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

No.  In order to commit criminal trespass, a person must have “had notice that the entry was forbidden” or have “received notice to depart but failed to do so.”  Tex. Penal Code § 30.05(a).

Trespass on Agricultural Land:

Trespass is a Class C misdemeanor if committed “on agricultural land and within 100 feet of the boundary of the land” or “on residential land and within 100 feet of a protected freshwater area.” Tex. Penal Code § 30.05(d)(1)-(2).  

Other Provisions:

See infra “Critical Infrastructure Laws.”

Drone Laws:

Surveillance Law:

“(a) A person commits an offense if the person uses an unmanned aircraft to capture an image of an individual or privately owned real property in this state with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image.


(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.” Tex. Gov’t Code § 423.003.


“It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person destroyed the image:

  1. as soon as the person had knowledge that the image was captured in violation of this section; and
  2. without disclosing, displaying, or distributing the image to a third party.” Tex. Gov’t Code § 423.003(c).


“It is lawful to capture an image using an unmanned aircraft in this state: 

  1. for the purpose of professional or scholarly research and development or for another academic purpose by a person acting on behalf of an institution of higher education or a private or independent institution of higher education, as those terms are defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, including a person who:
  1. is a professor, employee, or student of the institution; or
  2. is under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction or on behalf of the institution.” Id. § 423.002(a).

State Parks:

“Two parks offer zones for flying remote controlled aircraft (including drones): Lake Whitney and San Angelo.” Frequently Asked Questions, Tex. Parks & Wildlife, https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/park-information/frequently-asked-questions (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

Other Provisions:

See infra “Critical Infrastructure Laws.”

Critical Infrastructure Laws:


Trespass against a “critical infrastructure facility” or a superfund site is a Class A misdemeanor. Tex. Penal Code § 30.05(d)(3). 


“Critical infrastructure facility” is defined as including “a chemical manufacturing facility; . . . a refinery; . . . an electric power generation facility . . . or distribution facility; a water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station; . . . a natural gas transmission compressor station; . . . a liquid natural gas terminal or storage facility; . . . a . . . freight transportation facility; . . . [or] a gas processing plant, including a plant used in the processing, treatment, or fractionation of natural gas[.]”  Id. § 30.05(b)(7).

Drone Law:

“A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:

(1) operates an unmanned aircraft over a …critical infrastructure facility and the unmanned aircraft is not higher than 400 feet above ground level;

(2) allows an unmanned aircraft to make contact with a …critical infrastructure facility, including any person or object on the premises of or within the facility; or

(3) allows an unmanned aircraft to come within a distance of a … critical infrastructure facility that is close enough to interfere with the operations of or cause a disturbance to the facility.”  Tex. Gov’t Code § 423.0045(b).


“Critical infrastructure facility” includes, but is not limited to, facilities that manufacture, store, process, treat, or transmit chemicals, oil, gas, electricity, and water “if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs that are posted on the property, are reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, and indicate that entry is forbidden:”; or “any portion of an aboveground oil, gas, or chemical pipeline” if “enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier obviously designed to exclude intruders.” Id. § 423.0045(a)(1-a).


“An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.” Id. § 423.0045(d).

Exceptions for Drone Law:

See supra “Drone Laws.”

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law: 

“A person commits an offense [of stalking] if the person, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that is directed specifically at another person, knowingly engages in conduct that…would cause a reasonable person to…fear that an offense will be committed against the person’s property; or… feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.”  Tex. Penal Code § 42.072(a)(3)(C)&(D). 

Civil Law:

“A defendant is liable, as provided by this chapter, to a claimant for damages arising from stalking of the claimant by the defendant.”  Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 85.002.

Use of Information:

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

Explicitly Allows:

TCEQ may use “information provided by [a] private individual” if the executive director judges it to be “of sufficient value and credibility to warrant the initiation of an enforcement action.”  30 Tex. Admin. Code § 70.4(b).

Prohibitive by Effect:

“[I]f [TCEQ] relies on any physical or sampling data submitted by an individual to prove one or more elements of an enforcement case, such data must have been collected or gathered in accordance with relevant agency protocols.  The individual submitting the physical or sampling data must be willing to submit a sworn affidavit demonstrating that the individual followed relevant agency protocols when collecting the data.”  30 Tex. Admin. Code § 70.4(c)(3).

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that the claim “is not groundless.”  Tex. R. Civ. P. 13.

Authentication or Chain of Custody:

“To satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.”  Tex. R. Evid. 901(a).

Expert Testimony:

Texas Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert standard is instructive for expert testimony based on scientific evidence.  See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Robinson, 923 S.W.2d 549, 555–57 (Tex. 1995).


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