Kudos on NFS Litigation Weekly: Why Not Post It For All?

Pages from 2014_06_30 NFS Litigation Weekly

Andy inspired me to ask another “why not?” kind of public information question.

Generous souls within the Forest Service send me the ever-popular Litigation Weekly, which has paragraphs with links about lawsuits. It’s a great resource, IMHO and I think it’s one of the best pieces of information out there. So thank you, producers of it, if you are reading this (and past producers).

So here is my question… could someone tell me why this couldn’t be distributed publicly? I can’t access the links to the court case, of course, but if it is public information about our agencies shouldn’t they be available for free? I know people could be critiqued for what they write (the summary) but so what?

It seems to me like the plaintiffs have access to all kinds of media outlets to tell their side of the story. Would it be too much work to have it cleared? Or would it somehow give people on the other side an advantage?

Here’s my opinion FWIW: it would be a great service to have it publicly available, including links to the documents.

Anyway, for those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s posted above. Now I could post it every week, but that seems a bit silly. Or I could FOIA it and post it? Sillier. Ideas?

3 Comments

  1. I think it would be great to have something like that publicly available. Most of the general public has absolutely no clue as to USFS’s litigation load — which is something I feel many USFS are in fact comfortable with. You notice neither Vilsack nor Tidwell say much about litigation, because the litigants are so influential with the “base” that put these fellows in the saddle.

  2. I agree with both of the above comments, that it would be good to have this information publicly available.

    But this seems like a stretch: “It seems to me like the plaintiffs have access to all kinds of media outlets to tell their side of the story. Would it be too much work to have it cleared? Or would it somehow give people on the other side an advantage?”

    I think it’s probably just the opposite, and it’s pretty hard to compete with a PR juggernaut like this one: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=OC_MEDIA_COMMS

    Just one example, I know at least one of the projects listed here that’s being litigated, but it’s unlikely you’ll see any of the plaintiffs coming to town and waving millions of dollars under peoples’ noses like the USFS has done. If the agency truly is crying about not being able to “tell their side of the story”, I’m guessing those would be crocodile tears. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2014/02/0017.xml&contentidonly=true

    Still, it would be nice to see some kind of clearinghouse to make this information available.

  3. I wanted to add my kudos for the help I got from these during my FS career. (I’ll admit to having written a few, too.) My observation is that there was some nervousness early on about allowing the public to see these, but then I think there was more of an OGC role in their development and use. Maybe it’s a staffing/priority problem now, but there does appear to be some recognition that some public information on litigation is needed on the FS appeals and litigation webpage: http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/applit/index.htm

    It would be easy enough to post the summaries there. Factual summaries shouldn’t pose a FOIA problem.

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