Forest Service Issues Gag Order to Employees on Talking to Reporters

February 24, 2010

The Obama administration's self-proclaimed commitment to openness may not apply to National Forests … or journalists. A recent memo from a Monongahela National Forest tells employees not to talk to reporters.

Environmental reporters for decades have made personal contacts with National Forest employees in particular localities to get information about activities and issues of interest to the public.

But a January 26, 2010, memo from Monongahela National Forest public affairs officer Kate Goodrich-Arling directed employees there that if contacted: "you cannot talk to the reporter". The directive only applied to national reporters or national issues. The memo noted "we remain under strict instructions," and suggested that the instructions came from "our Washington office."

The memo was released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).