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Buffalo Field Campaign v. United States Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20164
Nos. CV 19-165-M-DWM, (D. Mont., 07/07/2020) (Molloy, J.)

A district court granted in part and denied in part cross-motions for summary judgment in a lawsuit seeking FOIA disclosure of records concerning Yellowstone National Park's policy on the size of its bison population. A nonprofit group argued that the National Park Service (NPS) unlawfully withheld non-exempt public records—an email between the park superintendent and an advisor to the secretary of DOI entitled "Bison habitat," briefing statements, a draft EA, and drafts of an internal science article—pursuant to a FOIA exemption for inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party other than the agency in litigation. The court found NPS properly invoked the exemption when it withheld the full draft EA, because disclosure of early NEPA documents could foreseeably harm the agency's policy- and decisionmaking process, but improperly withheld the email, briefing statements, and article drafts because they were neither predecisional nor deliberative. It therefore required NPS to disclose those documents, and remanded to NPS to perform a segregability analysis for the draft EA.