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Balancing Transparency, Confidentiality, Deliberation, and Sound Science in Public Land Decision Making

Jim B. Butler, Constance L. Rogers, Proceedings of 60th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2014)

Every day federal land managers make decisions to allow use of public land and resources, or to limit use or conserve those resources. These decisions have immediate and substantial consequences. There is a keen public interest in ensuring that such decisions are made with transparency and based on good information. This chapter discusses the body of laws [21-3] that address the development, use, and disclosure of information used in federal decision making.
Managing information through the land management decision-making process is key to public lands practice. Representing clients with public land interests (whether in private practice, public interest, or government) requires providing information to federal agencies, protecting information from public release, and obtaining information related to federal decisions. Federal land managers have legal obligations to both disclose and protect from disclosure certain kinds of information. Federal laws regarding confidentiality, scientific integrity, disclosure exemptions and privileges overlap, and understanding applicable legal requirements can be complicated.
There is no single, comprehensive federal statute that describes federal agencies' obligations regarding creation, collection, protection, and dissemination of information. Rather, information use and disclosure is covered under myriad laws, including the federal