(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:

The U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”), along with other non-federal entities, sponsors a citizen science project called CrowdHydrology. See CrowdHydrology, CitizenScience.gov, https://www.citizenscience.gov/catalog/129/# (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). CrowdHydrology gathers information on stream stage or water levels from anyone willing to send a text message of water levels at their local stream to collect spatially distributed hydrologic data. See How It Works, CrowdHydrology, http://www.crowdhydrology.com/about/how-it-works/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). This project is ongoing in Utah. See LocationsUtah, CrowdHydrology, http://www.crowdhydrology.com/location/utah/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


State Project(s):



Utah Water Watch (“UWW”), a partnership between Utah State University Water Quality Extension and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (“DEQ”) Division of Water Quality, creates opportunities for the public to assist in monitoring Utah’s lakes and streams. See Utah Water Watch, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/utah-water-watch/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). As part of UWW, volunteers of all ages monitor water quality once a month and report back the data to watershed managers. See id.see also Utah Water Watch, Extension Utah State U., https://extension.usu.edu/utahwaterwatch/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


DEQ developed the bloomWatch mobile app, a phone application where users can upload the location and photos of harmful algal blooms (“HABs”) to water quality managers and public health officials. Jared Mendenhall, Keeping Tabs on HABs, Utah Dep’t of Envtl. Quality, https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/keeping-tabs-on-habs (last updated Nov. 21, 2018). “The app effectively harnesses crowd-sourced data to track and manage water resources that the public depends on for potable water and recreation.” Id.


DEQ also welcomes citizen science aerial monitoring of waterbodies at risk of developing HABs. See id. DEQ will outfit small fixed-wing aircraft with geospatial cameras to collect aerial imagery that “can be quickly processed to detect high concentrations of cyanobacteria at a much quicker speed and better resolution than satellite imagery.” Id.


Collection of Information:

Ag-Gag Law:

Utah’s former Ag-Gag law, Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge on July 7, 2017. See Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Herbert, 263 F. Supp. 3d 1193 (D. Utah 2017).



Trespass Laws:

Criminal Liability for In-Person and Drone Trespass:

“A person is guilty of criminal trespass if . . .

  1. the person enters or remains unlawfully on or causes an unmanned aircraft to enter and remain unlawfully over property and . . .

(iii) is reckless as to whether the person’s or unmanned aircraft’s presence will cause fear for the safety of another;

  1. knowing the person’s or unmanned aircraft’s entry or presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on or causes an unmanned aircraft to enter or remain unlawfully over property to which notice against entering is given by:
  1. personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;
  1. fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders;
  1. posting of signs reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders . . . .” Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-206(2).


A violation of Subsection 2(a) or (b) is a Class B misdemeanor.  Id. § 76-6-206(3)(a).

Trespass on Agricultural Land:

“A person is guilty of the class B misdemeanor criminal offense of criminal trespass on agricultural or range land and is liable for the civil damages under Subsection (5) if, under circumstances not amounting to a greater offense, and without authorization or a right under state law, the person enters or remains on agricultural or range land regarding which notice prohibiting entry is given by:

(a) personal communication to the person by the owner of the land, an employee of the owner, or a person with apparent authority to act for the owner;

(b) fencing or other form of enclosure a reasonable person would recognize as intended to exclude intruders; or

(c) posted signs or markers that would reasonably be expected to be seen by persons in the area of the borders of the land.” Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-206.3(2).

Drone Laws:

Wildland Fire Drone Law:

“A person may not operate an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that causes an unmanned aircraft to fly within an area that is under a temporary flight restriction that is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of the wildland fire, or an area designated as a wildland fire scene on a system managed by a federal, state, or local government entity that disseminates emergency information to the public, unless the person operates the unmanned aircraft system with the permission of, an in accordance with the restrictions established by, the incident commander.” Utah Code Ann. § 65A-3-2.5(2).

A violation of this subsection is generally a Class B misdemeanor, but can be a Class A misdemeanor if the unmanned aircraft interferes with other aircrafts attempting to control or contain a wildland fire. Id. § 65A-3-2.5(3).


“(1) A political subdivision of the state, or an entity within a political subdivision of the state, may not enact a law, ordinance, or rule governing the private use of an unmanned aircraft unless …. (a) authorized by this chapter; or

(b) the political subdivision or entity is an airport operator…. 

(2) [Chapter 14] supersedes any law, ordinance, or rule enacted by a political subdivision of the state before July 1, 2017.” Utah Code Ann. § 72-14-103.

State Parks:

State parks in Utah have park-specific rules for drones. For example, Antelope Island State Park prohibits drone use March – November (not including the Davis County Causeway), and allows drone use for the remainder of the year in designated areas within the park for a fee. See Drone Regulations for Antelope Island State Park, Utah Dep’t of Nat. Resources, https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/drone-guidelines/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). For drone rules for other state parks visit stateparks.utah.gov or contact a state park representative. 

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law:

“A person is guilty of stalking who intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person:

(a) to fear for the person’s own safety or the safety of a third person; or

(b) to suffer other emotional distress.”  Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-106.5(2).

Use of Information:

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

Explicitly Allows:

“The Division [of Water Quality] will investigate and provide [a] written response to all citizen complaints” that a permit to discharge into state waters has been violated.  Utah Admin. Code R317-8(1.9).

Explicitly Prohibits: 

“(1) A law enforcement agency may not obtain, receive, or use data acquired through an unmanned aircraft system unless the data is obtained …. (c) subject to Subsection (2), from a person who is a nongovernment actor…or (e) for purposes unrelated to a criminal investigation.

(2) A nongovernment actor may only disclose data acquired through an unmanned aircraft system to a law enforcement agency if: 

(a) the data appears to pertain to the commission of a crime; or 

(b) the nongovernment actor believes, in good faith, that: 

(i) the data pertains to an imminent or ongoing emergency involving danger of death or serious bodily injury to an individual; and 

(ii) disclosing the data would assist in remedying the emergency.

(3) A law enforcement agency that obtains, receives, or uses data acquired under Subsection (1)(d) or (e) shall destroy the data as soon as reasonably possible after the law enforcement agency obtains, receives, or uses the data.”  Utah Code Ann. § 72-14-203.

“(1) Except as provided in this section, a law enforcement agency: 

(a) may not use, copy, or disclose data collected by an unmanned aircraft system on a person, structure, or area that is not a target; and 

(b) shall ensure that data described in Subsection (1)(a) is destroyed as soon as reasonably possible after the law enforcement agency collects or receives the data.

(2) A law enforcement agency is not required to comply with Subsection (1) if: …

(b) the law enforcement agency receives the data: (ii) from a person who is a nongovernment actor;

(c)(i) the data was collected inadvertently; and (ii) the data appears to pertain to the commission of a crime;

(d)(i) the law enforcement agency reasonably determines that the data pertains to an emergency situation; and (ii) using or disclosing the data would assist in remedying the emergency; or

(e) the data was collected through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system over public lands outside of municipal boundaries.”  Utah Code Ann. § 72-14-204.

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

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

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.”  Utah R. Evid. 901(a).

Expert Testimony:

For testimony about novel science, courts impose a standard of “inherent reliability,” similar to Daubert. State v. Rimmasch, 775 P.2d 388, 396 (Utah 1989). For other kinds of testimony, Utah courts require the plaintiff to make a “threshold showing” of reliability. Utah R. Evid. 702(b)–(c); see also Alder v. Bayer Corp., 61 P.3d 1068, 1084 (Utah 2002) (“[W]e reaffirm our previous holdings that the Rimmasch test applies only to novel scientific methods and techniques. Other scientific testimony is to be evaluated under rule 702 without heightened tests of ‘inherent reliability.’”).


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