WatchDog TipSheet

17 J-Groups Join SEJ in Letter on Wildlands Photo Regs

Eighteen journalism, photography, and First Amendment groups on October 1, 2014, wrote U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell opposing the proposal to finalize a directive requiring permits for "commercial filming" in Forest Service Wilderness areas. Tidwell has already said the USFS does not want to restrict journalism on wilderness lands, but the groups seek changes to regulatory language that would make this clear. SEJ is one of the groups.

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SEJ FOI Chair Talks to Forest Service Chief Tidwell

After proposing a directive that seemed to require permits and fees for journalists working in U.S. Forest Service wilderness lands, the USFS announced that it had never intended the restrictions to apply to journalists. Tim Wheeler, chairman of the Society of Environmental Journalists' Freedom of Information Task Force, talked with USFS Chief TomTidwell to clarify the USFS position. Here's his report.

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How Does Obama Block Open Info? AP Counts the Ways

Three major journalism groups held a joint convention in Chicago September 15-17, 2014, which included a panel discussion on Obama administration secrecy. News industry leaders used the occasion to point out that the Obama administration's deeds and practices did not match its claims of transparency.

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Pipeline Data, Maps Could Be a Reporting Resource — If Open

There are many good investigative stories to be done about natural gas pipelines in your local area. You can get some maps and data about these pipelines if you try. Hard. The government is not going to help too much. One resource is the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), which allows the general public to see geodata on a county-by-county basis.

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Constitution Wins After Court Imposes Prior Restraint on Pipeline Safety Info

As a nationwide newspaper chain probed safety threats posed to the public by gas pipelines, an Alabama court imposed prior restraint on the Montgomery Advertiser, to prevent it from publishing the Alabama Gas Corporation's safety plan, citing homeland security and trade secrets. Now a judge has ruled that the court erred in granting a temporary restraining order.

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Forest Service Seeks To Limit Journalists' Access to Wilderness Lands

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking to harden rules that would require a journalist to get a permit and pay a fee of up to $1,500 in order to report inside a federal wilderness. [Update -- 9/25/14: Forest Service Chief Tidwell says media don't need permit]

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Interior Coal Lease Data Not Available Online

You — as an owner (one of 314 million) of the coal reserves on federal land — might want to know whether the Bureau of Land Management is getting a fair return for your property when it is sold to a coal company. Good luck with that. Certainly, there is a database of federal coal lease activity. It's just that you would have a really hard time getting to it.

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Obama Admin Hides KXL Wildlife Impact Documents

An environmental group is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for denying a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information on the impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on whooping cranes, piping plovers and other endangered species. Photo: Piping plover/USFWS.

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Firm Seeks To Silence Fracking Pollution Concerns with Defamation Suit

The video of Steve Lipsky setting his drinking water on fire nearly went viral on You Tube. The fracking company he thinks caused the problem is suing him for defamation. Now that case is headed for the Texas Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for December 4.

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White House Nears Decision Shielding Frack Chem Disclosure

BLM has drafted a "final" rule — but that must be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which often serves as a backroom channel for industry to change regulations. The final product — still undetermined — is likely to be a disappointment to those who had hoped for Obama administration leadership on fracking disclosure.

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