If the Forest Service refuses to provide access to, or copies of, documents that you want, use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Just put your request in writing, describing as specifically as you can the documents that you want to look at or have copies printed. Agencies are quick to find any reason these days for denying public access to these public documents – as such, FOIA practice has become a fertile litigation ground for public interest attorneys, who, if successful, may be able to recover their attorneys’ fees. For sample Freedom of Information Act requests (BLM and FS) click here.
Be very specific concerning the documents you need and pay close attention to the specific requirements to obtain a fee waiver.
Refusals of FOIA requests are rarely justified. If your request is denied by the Forest Service you should appeal the denial in writing to the address for appeals listed on the denial letter. If you do not receive a denial letter, you should look up the most recent FOIA appeals officer for the agency (or, for the BLM, the Department of the Interior) on the internet.
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