Black Hills group files federal suit against Forest Service regarding proposed gold exploration

BLACK HILLS, S.D. — The Black Hills Clean Water Alliance has filed a complaint against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture in federal court.

The complaint alleges the Forest Service and USDA withheld “an undetermined number of pages” and failed to provide detailed, specific cases of exemptions following a FOIA request related to F3 Gold’s exploratory drilling application.

“The information is important not just because of the principal of transparent government, but these are mining proposals that threaten to have significant impacts on the forest, including to water quality, cultural resources, wildlife, and others,” Parsons added. “So while this case is about accessing information, it’s really about making sure that any mining activity that occurs on the forest is done in a way that’s not going cause permanent and irrevocable harm.”

2,627 records were released and put on the agencies website, a portion of which were allegedly then removed and altered.

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A portion of the USDA’s response to BHCWA’s FOIA appeal (dated July 8, 2021)

BHCWA states that after a FOIA appeal filed in March 2021 failed to resolve the issue, the only way to get resolution was in court.

“Unfortunately the only way to get the federal agency to provide the information necessary for the citizens to have a full view of the proposals on the forest is to sue,” says Jeff Parsons, an attorney with Black Hills Clean Water Alliance. “If the agency won’t comply with the Freedom of Information Act there’s really no other alternative.”

At the time of writing, the U.S. Forest Service was unable to provide comment on the ongoing litigation.

Click here for more information on F3 Gold’s exploratory drilling proposal.

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