Update on the USFS FOIA from this Spring

Well this should piss everyone off…
Most of you know AMRA’s President, Shannon Poe was issued a ridiculous and illegal citation while hosting a public event on one of our mining claims this Spring for “defrauding an innkeeper”.
This citation came because the USFS built some covered picnic areas on the claims…..without notifying the claim owners as prescribed by law. They also installed some small garbage collection containers and proceeded to demand us, the claim owners…and everyone else attending the outing to pay $7.00 to a 3rd party they contracted with to collect the garbage.
Fundamentally this is flatly illegal and they knew it. We posted the video for all to see. This didn’t stop them from being stupid and citing for something as absurd as calling the garbage collection kid an “innkeeper” and asserting he has rights over us, who own the real property. Ya, it was that ridiculous.
So, the USFS decided it was in their best interest to not file any case with the District Attorney and therefore the case was dropped.
Poe submitted a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request very shortly after the incident in April demanding the video the LEO shot of the incident and all applicable documents as a part of this illegal detainment by the USFS.
Under the FOIA law, they have 20 days to respond. After nearly 6 months, Poe submitted another email to ask why this is not being processed per the law.
Firstly, here is the FOIA law per the DOJ website on time for processing and answering:
Under the statute, federal agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within twenty working days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This period does not begin until the request is actually received by the component that maintains the records sought.
We did receive an initial response (computer generated we believe) that they received the request, but when we heard nothing more for many months, we inquired again and asked “when will this be fulfilled”?
Here is their response:
Hello Shannon:
Your status update inquiry was forwarded to me for response. The FOIA Service Center currently have over 550 open FOIA cases in the Washington Office, and we process on a first-in, first-out basis, although we often work on several cases simultaneously. In my individually assigned work queue, I have over 85 requests and my priority at this time is on cases from 2019.
Unfortunately, it may still be some time before you receive a response. In your case, all law enforcement body camera videos have to be reviewed for necessary redactions of the video and audio files. Even with records that seem like they should be easy to release, it often takes some time given each second of a video consists of 33 frames of images.
Under the FOIA, all federal agencies have 20 days to respond to a FOIA request with the possibility of a 10 day extension if certain circumstances arise. However, there is no cap on how long we will process records for. In other words, just because it will take longer than 20 days, it doesn’t mean we will stop processing nor process with any less expediency.
You’ve asked when you can expect to receive a response – it’s difficult to pin down an exact date given the volume of cases. I am estimating a response date of one year, October 11, 2023, but please know we will certainly strive to provide you with a response sooner if at all possible.
Meantime, please let me know if you have any further questions, would like to discuss your request, or the FOIA process. I’d be happy to set up a time for a Teams call if that would be better to be able to answer any questions you may have in real time.
Melani Gonzalez
Government Information Specialist (FOIA)
USDA Forest Service
We’ll just let you folks discuss this and see what you think of this process and if it is truly serving the people….especially when they know they stepped in their own _____.

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