A Win for Government Transparency

We just had to post a sage-grouse happy dance (greater sage-grouse here because Gunny wasn’t available to dance or for a comment), because yesterday, we won our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case!

On May 15, 2019, we sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Bureau of Land Management seeking records to the Tres Rios Field Office’s ongoing Resource Management Plan amendment process involving the designation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). ACECs are meant to protect important and sensitive natural values found on specific landscapes.

The ACECs that we proposed for the Tres Rios Field Office were aimed at protecting Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat, important rare plant habitat, and the overall biological integrity of this important area.

The Bureau of Land Management did not respond to our FOIA request within the statutorily mandated time frame, and we filed litigation in Federal Court to seek compliance with its FOIA rights in order to participate in the ACEC amendment process with the benefit of the documents the agency considered when making the decision.

On September 27, 2021, Federal Magistrate Judge Kristin Mix issued an Order ruling that the Bureau of Land Management had violated the FOIA by not conducting a search that was reasonably likely to obtain and disclose all responsive records and failed to lawfully justify the basis for withholding records.

The agency will now have to complete a new search using comprehensive search terms that includes additional agency staff that participated in this agency action.

It’s a win for government transparency and could, eventually, result in a win for Gunnison sage-grouse!

Save Grouse!

Matt Sandler bundled up near a rock overhang

Matt Sandler (he/him)
Staff Attorney
Rocky Mountain Wild

Chris Talbot-Heindl dressed up like an American pika

Chris Talbot-Heindl (they/them)
Communications & Membership Manager
Rocky Mountain Wild

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