Will Rey Defy Freedom of Information Request?

by jhwygirl

I’m sure that is on at least one organization’s mind. Matt Koehler, Executive Director of the WildWest Institute submitted a request for documents associated with the Plum Creek-USFS easement negotiations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) back on May 13rd. That clock is ticking nearer – meanwhile, in today’s Missoulian, Rey is quoted as saying that Missoula County’s request for copies of the old easements and the proposed easements is “still under consideration,” but that expecting him to provide that amount of paperwork is “unrealistic.”

Really?

In order to meet the 20-day deadline under the FOIA, Rey and the USFS would have to provide the documents requested by the WildWest Institute by Monday, June 2nd.

Below is the content of the FOIA request by the WildWest Instutute, sent May 13th to the USFS FOIA division.:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C.§ 522 et. seq., the WildWest Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation group, requests the following information regarding the U.S. Forest Service:

*Any and all communications between the US Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Company regarding forest-road agreements, including discussions as they relate to real estate development. This would include, but not limited to, communications between all officials with, or representatives of, Plum Creek Timber Company and the US Forest Service, including Undersecretary Mark Rey and Forest Service regional offices and employees, Forest Service supervisor offices and employees and Forest Service district offices and employees between January 1, 2004 and May 13, 2008, the date of this FOIA. “Any and all communications” includes, but is not limited to: phone conversations, phone notes, meetings notes, emails, letters and faxes. To reduce paper, please provide this information electronically.

The documents and information requested by the WildWest Institute will be used to help local communities, environmental organizations, and other interested persons and organizations understand how the Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Company are conducting talks related to forest-road agreements. Such information will be used to further the WildWest Institute’s advocacy oriented endeavors and increase the public’s understanding of Forest Service management. As such, we request that all fees be waived and the above requested information be provided free of charge.

This request definitively meets all six requirements for a fee waiver.

First, the requested information concerns the operations and activities of a public agency – the U.S. Forest Service.

Second, the disclosure of the requested information will help educate and enhance the public’s understanding of the of Forest Service management related to forest-road agreements. The WildWest Institute will include this information in lectures, educational presentations and on our organization’s website, all of which are made available to the public.

Third, the disclosure of the requested documents and information will contribute to the public interest at large in several ways. WildWest Institute will disseminate any and all information it receives to local communities, environmental organizations, and other interested persons and organizations working on issues relevant to the management of the national forest lands. WildWest Institute sponsors public lectures, educational presentations, field trips, and publishes an electronic newsletter for its 750 members and volunteers. WildWest Institute provides written and spoken testimony at public hearings and publishes articles in magazines and newspapers such as the Missoulian, Ravalli Republic, Billings Gazette, Missoula Independent and Great Falls Tribune. of WildWest Institute conducts these outreach and education efforts to promote public awareness of the conservation values of the national forest lands and potential harms caused by mismanagement as a result of forest-use agreements.

Furthermore, the requested information will allow WildWest Institute to continue to assist the public interest with participation in any administrative processes (such as comment letters and public hearings or meetings) undertaken by the Forest Service relating to forest-road agreements. The WildWest Institute provides this assistance to the public by suggesting scoping comments, advocating letter writing campaigns to the Forest Service, as well as providing organizations and individuals with access to the information as well as technical analysis. WildWest Institute provides contribution to the public interest regarding activities and operations on US Forest Service lands. This contribution, however, is impaired if WildWest Institute does not obtain the requested information.

Fourth, the documents and information will significantly contribute to the public’s understanding of forest-use agreements. WildWest Institute recognizes the importance of the public in any decisions involving the public lands and continues to conduct intensive public outreach and education efforts through the variety of means discussed above. Without disclosure of the requested information, WildWest Institute will not be able to bring to the public a unique perspective the Forest Service cannot replicate. By offering this perspective, WildWest Institute will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of management issues in general and implementation forest-use agreements.

Fifth, the WildWest Institute has no commercial interests that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the public interest on a number of wide-ranging issues. The WildWest Institute’s interest in obtaining this information is based solely on our interest in informing the public at large about management of US Forest Service lands and advocating for its protection and restoration.

Finally, the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any commercial interest in disclosure because, as mentioned above, the WildWest Institute has no commercial interests in the disclosed information. We are simply an organization serving the public-interest. As such, if the information requested is obtained it will not serve a commercial interest.

Accordingly, we request that all fees should be waived and the above requested documents be provided free of charge. If this fee waiver request is not granted, please notify me before assessing any fees.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to consider this request. We look forward to your prompt response within the prescribed 20 days. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i). All produced documents and information can be sent to the undersigned. If you have any questions and/or concerns, please do not hesitate to call me at (406) 396-0321. I can also be reached via e-mail at koehler@wildrockies.org.


  1. Ms Montana

    Where’s the Wildwest now?

  1. 1 Bush’s Final Assault on Our National Heritage: Forest Service Turns Wilderness into Subdivisions « Johnny Rook’s Climaticide Chronicles

    […] Mark Rey, however, refused to release the documents which had been requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The result is likely to be a court battle and, given today’s announcement, […]

  2. 2 Another Grab as the Rats Pack Up: Forest Service Turns Wilderness into Subdivisions « Johnny Rook’s Climaticide Chronicles

    […] Mark Rey, however, refused to release the documents which had been requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The result is likely to be a court battle and, given today’s announcement, […]




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