Federal Government Stonewalling Efforts to Obtain Public Information on Wildlife, Environment

In a series of legal actions filed today and yesterday, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center stepped up their efforts to compel the Trump administration to publicly release government records related to the killing of western wildlife and oversight of fossil fuel companies.

In five federal lawsuits, the groups, both of which work to promote environmental conservation in the American West, moved to require several Trump agencies to release records sought under the Freedom of Information Act. The records include documents related to the secretive government wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services and federal management of fossil fuel extraction on our public lands.

This action comes in the wake of President Trump’s executive order and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s secretarial order, both issued in March. These orders began a troubling series of policy and regulatory rollbacks of progress on climate action, most recently evidenced by Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

“President Trump and his agencies are willfully violating our freedom of information laws, denying Americans their right to know and undermining our democracy,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ climate and energy program director. “We aim to put an end to the Trump administration’s secrecy and fight for the protection of our environment.”

The challenges are the latest in a series of legal efforts undertaken by the groups to enforce Trump administration transparency under the Freedom of Information Act. Since taking office, Trump’s agencies have regularly stonewalled public requests for information and refused to produce records by legally required deadlines.

“We’re sending a clear message to Trump, early in his presidency: He and his administration are subject to the laws of the United States of America just as anyone else is,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “If this administration wants to try to destroy our public lands, foul our air and water, and kill vulnerable wildlife in the name of corporate profits, it will have to do so in the full light of day.”

Like many public interest organizations, the Western Environmental Law Center and WildEarth Guardians regularly use Freedom of Information Act to ensure the federal government is complying with legal mandates to protect the environment.

“Transparency ensures the government is accountable to the people it represents: it is not partisan, and is key to a healthy, thriving democracy,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the administration to stop hiding in darkness and provide the requested documents as required by law so that the people can judge for themselves whose interests are truly served by the government’s actions.”

Today’s legal actions, which were filed in Washington, D.C., target the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in three separate lawsuits, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program.

The individual complaints are available here:
Bureau of Land Management Complaint-1
Bureau of Land Management Complaint-2
Bureau of Land Management Complaint-3
Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement Complaint
Wildlife Services Complaint

Laura King, Western Environmental Law Center, (909) 200-9776, Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 324-8011, Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663, Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 414-7227, 

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