WATCHDOG: The post where we say nice things about the Forest Service

from the Rapid City Journal here.

WATCHDOG: The post where we say nice things about the Forest Service
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18 hours ago • Joe O’Sullivan Journal staff

“The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.” ~ H.L. Mencken

It’s surreal to thank people for just doing their job, because, after all, they’re just doing their job. But there are few consequences to breaking public records laws, and many government entities don’t — or won’t — comply quickly (or at all) to requests for records. Or even public information.

And while Public Records Watchdog focuses on the latter half of the carrot-and-stick approach, I thought I’d throw a carrot out there.

U.S. Forest Service: congratulations, have a carrot.

Last week, two separate Forest Service regions helped get us information for our story on how exploding targets are causing wildfires. The Black Hills National Forest folks helped make available a fire investigator who could speak with authority on the growing number of wildfires started by exploding targets used by shooters.

The regional office that oversees the Nebraska National Forest and Grasslands wouldn’t let us interview a local patrol captain about last year’s Spotted Tail fire near Chadron. But Forest Service spokeswoman Cyd Janssen called us back on deadline and got us the information we needed. Good on her.

[The regional office should answer for why no law enforcement at Nebraska National Forest and Grasslands is allowed to talk to the press about an investigation financed by public money about a fire on public land, and extinguished with fire trucks paid by the public. But that’s for another day.]

The Forest Service also sent me this week a series of Black Hills National Forest logging contracts that I’d requested in May through the Freedom of Information Act. A spokesperson told me that the disc containing the contracts was being held by law enforcement, but the Forest Service worked it out and got us requested documents. Considering FOIA requests often take months or years for federal government agencies to complete, two months for a fat stack of contracts isn’t bad.

We’ll be writing about the logging contracts soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, open government people, keep the faith. And Forest Service, enjoy your carrot.

Sharon’s note: Anybody who quotes Mencken has earned some warm fuzzies from me. What a difference a forest can make! Good on you, Nebraska and Black Hills!

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