By: Alan Prendergast, Westword
January 21, 2016
Environmental groups claim that U.S. Forest Service officials felt politically pressured to aid a Texas billionaire’s plans for a massive resort development on Wolf Creek Pass and made various attempts to conceal or destroy records in order to avoid public scrutiny of the decision process — including one e-mail from a district ranger to other planners urging them to read and then trash it.
The allegations come as groups opposing the development sift through nearly 70,000 pages of documents released by the USFS in response to Freedom of Information litigation. More than half of the pages represent items pulled from government servers that were not provided in response to previous FOIA requests, including an e-mail from District Ranger Tom Malacek that was supposed to be deleted after recipients read it.
In response to questions about the significance of one document, Malacek’s missive explains that a supervisor’s “main concern wasn’t the letter, but the e-mails around the letter that might be a little damaging in the event that they are not all deleted in case we get a foia…. Remember we are swimming with sharks and need to keep e-mails from even the remote appearance of whatever, so make sure you burn this e-mail once read!”
Other documents made available online by the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition indicate that Forest Service employees engaged in several other strategies to keep records from being made public through FOIA requests, including sending a document “hardcopy so it would not be subject to FOIA” and cc’ing attorneys so the documents could be represented as protected by attorney-client privilege.
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