Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

25 Nov 2018

USDA Forest Service delays another response to a FOIA public records request

Posted by Adam Howell


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The San Juan National Forest Freedom of Information Act “Coordinator” has failed to lawfully comply with a second FOIA records request submitted by this blogger.

I submitted a public records request to San Juan National Forest FOIA Coordinator Jeremiah Hyslop on October 23, 2018 via email.

It said:

Hello Jeremiah,

This is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records request for the Fire Investigation Report that was done for the 416 Fire on the San Juan National Forest.

The 416 Fire started on June 1, 2018, next to the train tracks of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad next to Irongate Way.

Please provide me with a digital copy of this report within 20 business days of this request.

Thank You,
Adam Howell
Horse Gulch Blog

In a reply email sent to me the next day, Hyslop assured me that someone at the regional level would respond to my request within 20 business days.

Here’s what he said:

Hello Mr. Howell,

I received your request this morning and have assigned the FOIA Request Number 2018-FS-R2-00533-F to the information you are asking for. Since your request is law enforcement related, it will be handled by the Acting Rocky Mountain Region FOIA Coordinators Misty DeSalvo and/or Dori Creamer. One of these coordinators will respond to your request at the Regional level on or before the 20 business days allotted, which in this case lands on November 22, 2018.

Kind regards,

Jeremiah

Also copied on the reply that Jeremiah sent me was Acting Region 2 FOIA “Coordinator” Misty DeSalvo, San Juan National Forest Supervisor Kara Chadwick, Dori Creamer and Christopher Wehrli.



Twenty days after submitting my public records request, it came as no surprise that nobody at the Forest Service had provided me with the Fire Investigation Report for the 416 Fire.

On November 25th, I wrote Hyslop to tell him that he was in violation of FOIA.

Hello Jeremiah.

You and your agency are non compliant with the 20 business days allotted by the Freedom of Information Act to respond to my records request number 2018-FS-R2-00533-F from October 23, 2018.

Do you plan on responding to my request for a copy of the 416 Fire Investigation Report?

Please respond to my records request. I am a member of the online news media, and the information that I am requesting has significant value to the public.

Your actions represent a violation of the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Sincerely,
Adam Howell
Horse Gulch Blog

An automatic reply was sent from Hyslop, saying that he will be out of the office until January due to the birth of his child. The email suggested sending correspondence to Lorena Williams instead, who is acting in his position while he is out of the office.

After getting the automatic reply, I sent Williams a similar email asking her to respond to the FOIA request that Hyslop had stonewalled.

Williams has not responded yet.

My request for the Fire Investigation Report for the 416 Fire follows a previous unsuccessful attempt to obtain seven other Fire Investigation Reports from the Forest Service.

Hyslop, DeSalvo, Chadwick and other Forest Service officials failed to comply with FOIA law 5 U.S.C. Section 552 (a)(6)(A)(i) by shirking the requirement to respond or provide the records within 20 business days.

Adam Howell is a writer who lives in Durango. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.



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