Today, more than one hundred organizations, led by the Southern Environmental Law Center, submitted comments opposing the Department of the Interior’s proposed revisions to its regulations implementing the Freedom of Information Act. The proposed amendments would make it more difficult for the public to access records in the possession of Interior agencies and bureaus, leaving the public in the dark on department operations. They would also create new layers of secrecy, bureaucracy, confusion, and uncertainty and would ultimately lead to more litigation to compel release of public records. Finally, the comments detailed how the proposed rules violate congressional mandates in the Freedom of Information Act, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
Bob Dreher, Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs, Defenders of Wildlife:
“In the name of supposed efficiency, the Department of the Interior has constructed new layers of secrecy, bureaucracy, confusion and uncertainty in an ongoing effort to bar the American public from information maintained by their own government. These revisions are unlawful and anathema to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act. Our wildlife, public lands and environmental health will suffer the consequences if these rules are allowed to stand.”
Kym Hunter, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center:
“It’s never a good idea scrap the rules that let the public know what the government is up to, but this could be the worst time in our history. This attempt by Trump’s Department of Interior to shroud itself in secrecy and keep documents from the public makes clear what we have known for a long time – its interests lie in protecting polluters and resource extractors, not the special places, endangered species and natural resources that Americans have entrusted to its care. It’s no surprise that so many groups from all across the country have signed onto comments opposing this latest outrage.”
As an advocate for the public interest, Defenders of Wildlife has requested government documents under the Freedom of Information Act to expose and explain important federal processes that affect American public lands and wildlife. These efforts have been featured in national news articles that have reported on the Department of the Interior’s attempt to plow a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and construct new border wall though Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Defenders has also filed litigation to compel the federal government’s response to six Freedom of Information Act requests for information relevant to threatened oil exploration and leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.