BLM places "outrageous conditions on public comment" by releasing personal contact information online
June 2, 2012 (San Francisco) -- Protect Mustangs, a Bay Area-based preservation group, asks the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to revise its conditions for receiving written comment. The BLM now requires personal identifying information that BLM says it cannot safeguard, the group cautions.
What started as an issue jeopardizing public process for people who want helicopters roundups to stop has mushroomed into a free speech issue for all Americans.
"This in an invasion of privacy—a restriction of our rights of free speech," states Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs. "It will stifle public participation."
Due to the BLM's lack of public notice for a public hearing, the preservation group released an alert titled: Government transparency and public process jeopardized. They gathered comments requesting the Nevada public hearing be rescheduled with 30 days notice and comments against using helicopters and motorized vehicles for roundups and management. Early Tuesday morning the group sent the comments to the Director of BLM in Washington requesting he intervene and reschedule the public hearing. Wild horse photographer, Cat Kindsfather, hand delivered the comments to BLM officials at the hearing.
As a result of Protect Mustangs' grassroots efforts and the public rallying for their right to comment, the BLM released the press release announcing they will extend only the written comment period for the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles for roundups and management in Nevada.
BLM also states:
"Comments submitted to BLM must include your address, phone number, email, or other personal identifying information in your comment. Please be aware your entire comment–including your personal identifying information–may be made publicly available at any time. While you may request we withhold your personal information from public view, we cannot guarantee we will be able to do so."
The preservation group opposes BLM's terms for comment for 2 reasons:
1.) The controversial Nevada public hearing regarding using helicopters and other motorized vehicles for roundups and management, must be held with 30 days notice so the American public may attend and give oral comment as well as written comment.
2.) The BLM must accept written comments and protect personal identifying information if the commenter has requested their information be withheld from public view Requested personal identifying information should not be excessive.
"Any person who requests that their personal information be safeguarded should have that right to privacy respected—especially by a government agency," states Kerry Becklund, director of outreach for Protect Mustangs.
Refusing to keep personal identifying information confidential, stifles the public process because anyone can get a copy of the comments according to BLM protocol. The public wants to know their rights to privacy are ensured.
"Are the BLM's new written comment conditions intended to suppress public comment?" asks Novak. "It's a no-brainer that this is going to discourage people. What's happening to America's public process and our rights to free speech?"
Protect Mustangs website: http://protectmustangs.org/