Latest FOIA fight marks another chapter in a generation-long battle

The Durango Herald, 2/1/2016

For a second time, a federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to produce a broader range of documents concerning the proposed Village at Wolf Creek. And if Forest Service officials are smart they will fully comply. Revealing whatever might be in those files is unlikely to be more damning than trying to stonewall twice-validated Freedom of Information Act requests.

Critics who think they see in this the Forest Service conspiring with the developer are almost certainly off base. The Forest Service is well-regarded and typically does good work. That it touches so many people and is in the middle of so many issues naturally makes it controversial from time to time, but being responsible for respecting sometimes conflicting values and interests is not corrupt.

Failure to be fully transparent, however, is a sure way to raise suspicions. As U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge William Martinez put it, “The court sees no reason to excuse the Forest Service from its duty to perform a proper search.”

It is hard to see why the Forest Service would wish to be excused, and harder still to understand why it might think it should be. A lack of transparency may not be hiding something scandalous. It may be the scandal.

Read the full editorial at The Durango Herald.