The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed in 1967 for the purpose of facilitating the public the right to request and obtain access to records from any federal agency.
WHE utilizes FOIA to gain information we have not been able to obtain through other channels. We use the information in investigative reporting to inform the public. In addition, FOIA assists our team as we prioritize field work and to inform litigation strategies in the coming fiscal year.
WHE FOIA progress report, public (only for fiscal year 2022, end date October 1):
- WHE team members filed a total of 34 targeted FOIAs in fiscal 2022.
- 14 have been answered.
- 20 remain incomplete (or have not received any response) and are in process or appeal.
Multiple investigative reports are in progress. We expect to release the results of several of these reports in fiscal 2023.
WHE conducted a basic 5 FOIA exercise to begin to demonstrate inconsistencies in the program for release to the public. Sometimes FOIA investigations are a long maze with many twists and turns. This specific exercise was designed to demonstrate results in an easy to understand format.
Why is the “5 FOIA” report important?
Often, the public (media, Congress) makes an assumption that there is a “national program” that utilizes an identical methodology for implementation and record keeping, there isn’t one in practice. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) operates as a system of basic ideas, where law and policy implementation and follow-through can vary drastically from state-to-state, district-to-district.
WHE utilized the roundup (and associated record keeping) to demonstrate inconsistencies involving a subject of extreme public interest. It should be stated that these inconsistencies are not only present during roundups; setting Appropriate Management Level (AML), forage allocations, mitigation for mining and livestock. Discrepancies in policy can extend all the way in determining which wild horses and burros will be offered for adoption (friends do get preferential treatment). Reports in process will demonstrate these additional inconsistencies and expand on the “5 FOIA” report published with our fiscal overview.
We utilized FOIA to file for identical records from roundups in a 6-month period spanning 5 districts in a single state. National directions go to state offices (SO) and are distributed to districts. Using 5 districts in a single state illustrates the consistency (or lack of) in following a single set of directives communicated from the SO.
Preliminary findings illustrate:
- Veterinary reports are not being completed during roundups.
- After Action Reviews (AAR) and Final Gather Data Reports are not being completed as required.
- Extreme differences in record keeping and interpretation of responsibilities from district-to-district and event-to-event.
You can view the full fiscal year 2022 FOIA overview and report Click HERE.
FOIA can be used to supplement on-ground data with the agency’s own documentation to expose serious deficits in the program.
Oversight of the program begins with the public. FOIA is a very useful tool.
In fiscal 2023, we will publish additional reports and are determining an appropriate method to categorize relevant materials we receive to create a public repository.
Fiscal 2022 FOIA progress report prepared by WHE team to update and inform our readers and supporters.
Additional WHE 2022 reports:
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