(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has partnered with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“WDNR”) and other state agencies to enlist citizen scientists in research projects to help monitor invasive species in the Great Lakes. See Press Release, EPA Partners with Michigan, Wisconsin and Citizen Scientists on Innovative Great Lakes Research Project, U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency (Aug. 22, 2017), https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-partners-michigan-wisconsin-and-citizen-scientists-innovative-great-lakes-research. One project specifically engages citizen scientists to analyze videos for habitat characteristics and invasive species to close current knowledge gaps. See Using Citizen Science to Analyze Underwater Video in the Great Lakes, U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/innovation/using-citizen-science-analyze-underwater-video-great-lakes (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

State Project(s):

Wisconsin state law requires that the WDNR “establish a stream watch program to encourage the volunteer activities of the community . . . to monitor and improve stream quality. . . .”  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 23.094(7). The Water Action Volunteers Stream Monitoring Program, which is coordinated between WDNR and the University of Wisconsin – Cooperative Extension, uses volunteer citizen scientists to monitor water quality parameters and “assess the aquatic and streamside habitat as well as the stream’s macroinvertebrate community, using a biotic index.” What’s Monitored, Water Action Volunteers, http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu/wav/monitoring/monitored.html (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also Water Action Volunteers, http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu/level1/wav.html (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


Wisconsin regulations also require WDNR to establish a lake monitoring network. See Wis. Admin. Code §§ NR 192.01–192.07. The Citizen Lake Monitoring Network (“CLMN”) connects over 1,000 citizen volunteers to the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership. See Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, U. of Wis. Stevens Point, https://www.uwsp.edu/cnrap/UWEXLakes/Pages/programs/clmn/default.aspx (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). CLMN staff provide volunteers with the necessary equipment and training to conduct monitoring activities. Id. The information gathered by these programs is used by WDNR in protecting water quality. Id.


WDNR sponsors additional wildlife and plant citizen science projects, such as the Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Program, Snapshot Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Monitoring ProgramSee Citizenbased Monitoring, Wis. Dep’t of Nat. Resources, https://dnr.wi.gov/volunteer/CitizenBasedMonitoring.html (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

Collection of Information:

Research Permits:

WDNR “issues permits, authorizations and licenses for research, education and other activities that involve rare, nongame and game species and habitats. Each has its own application requirements and procedures.” Species Collection and Research Permits and Licenses, Wis. Dep’t of Nat. Resources, https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/permits.html#tabx6 (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also Wis. Stat. Ann. § 29.614; id. § 169.25; Wis. Admin. Code NR § 19.11.

Trespass Laws:

Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

A person commits trespass by entering the land of another “without the express or implied consent of the owner or occupant” or “after having been notified by the owner or occupant not to enter or remain on the premises.” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 943.13(1m)(a), (am) & (b).  This includes agricultural land. Id. § 943.13(1m)(am). Notice is one factor in considering the presence of implied consent. Id. § 943.13(1s) (Implied Consent); see also, id. § 943.13(2)(am) (Notice). However, this prohibition does not apply to “open land,” which is land that is not “in the immediate vicinity[ ] of a structure or improvement.” Id. § 943.13(1e)(cr)(2). 


Trespass is not punishable as a crime in Wisconsin, but constitutes a Class B forfeiture. Id. § 943.13 (1m).

Other Provisions:

See infra “Critical Infrastructure Laws.”

Drone Laws:

Surveillance Law:

“Whoever uses a drone . . . with the intent to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place or location where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy is guilty of Class A misdemeanor.” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 942.10.

Interference with Hunting, Fishing or Trapping: 

“No person may interfere or attempt to interfere with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping with the intent to prevent the taking of a wild animal, or intentionally interfere with or intentionally attempt to interfere with an activity associated with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping, by . . . [p]hotographing, videotaping, audiotaping, or through other electronic means, monitoring or recording the activities of the person.” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 29.083(2)(a)(7)(c). The prohibited conduct explicitly includes “using a drone” to carry out these activities. Id. § 29.083(2)(a)(8).


Civil Liability:

“A person who is adversely affected by, or who reasonably may be expected to be adversely affected by, conduct that is in violation of sub. (2)(a) may bring an action in circuit court for an injunction or damages or both.” Id. § 29.083(4)(a).


No political subdivision may regulate the ownership or operation of a drone, Wis. Stat. Ann. § 114.105(4)(b), except when enacting “an ordinance limiting the use of drones by the political subdivision,” id. § 114.105(3).

State Parks:

“The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, and other flying related activities … is prohibited, except where posted for their use, at state parks, state recreation areas, state natural areas, the Kettle Moraine and Point Beach state forests, and the Lower Wisconsin state riverway.” Flying Related Activities, Wis. Dep’t of Nat. Resources, https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/rules/flying.html (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also Wis. Admin. Code NR § 45.04(1)(c).

Critical Infrastructure Laws:

Trespass Against Energy Provider:

Trespass against “energy provider property,” defined as “property that is part of an electric generation, distribution, or transmission system or part of a natural gas distribution system,” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 943.143(1)(b), including decommissioned nuclear power plants, is a Class H felony, id. § 943.143(2).

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law:

A person commits stalking by meeting all of the following criteria:

“(a) The actor intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person under the same circumstances to suffer serious emotional distress or to fear bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.

(b) The actor knows or should know that at least one of the acts that constitute the course of conduct will cause the specific person to suffer serious emotional distress or place the specific person in reasonable fear of bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.

(c) The actors acts cause the specific person to suffer serious emotional distress or induce fear in the specific person of bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 940.32(2).

Use of Information:

Although our research is incomplete, this provision could be construed to allow the use of information collected by citizens.

Explicitly Allows:

Wisconsin regulations order WDNR to “[a]nalyze, report and share the data collected through” the CLMN. Wis. Admin. Code § NR 192.04(4); see also supra “Ongoing Projects.”

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that “[t]he allegations and other factual contentions stated in the paper have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 802.05(2)(c).

Authentication or Chain of Custody:

“The requirements of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility are satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” Wis. Stat. Ann. § 909.01.

Expert Testimony:

Wisconsin Statute Section 907.02(1) with instruction from Daubert and its progeny. See Seifert v. Balink, 888 N.W.2d 816, 830 (Wisc. 2017). 


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