Forest Service Gags Employees, Belies Obama Openness Vow

May 19, 2010

The US Forest Service has ordered all of its law enforcement personnel not to talk to any news reporters about anything without first getting clearance from its Washington director and press office.

The directive applies to all information, however local, whether or not the story is urgent or involves an emergency.  It might, for example, require several days' delay for political clearance before a local radio station could broadcast warnings to evacuate National Forest campgrounds during an out-of-control wildfire.

In a September 1, 2009 memo, David Ferrell, Director of USFS Law Enforcement and Investigations decreed: "Currently, and until further notice all LEI employees are on stand-down from communicating with local and or national media contacts without clearance from the Director, LEI and Press Office, Media desk in the Washington Office.”

The memo was obtained and disclosed by the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) on April 21, 2010.