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Just won my FOIA lawsuit against the NPS!

Started by jbensman, August 11, 2011, 11:04:52 AM

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Most agencies are happy to give me trail data for My Trails.  They recognize it is a public benifit for the public to be able to see where the trails are located on thier GPS.  Even the National Park Service is normally happy to provide me data and they have lots of great data on the Internet.

A couple of years ago I attended a public meeting the NPS was having on the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  They told me they had GPSed their trails.  So I emailed them telling them what Iwanted the data for and asking for it.  After several months I got them to respond and they refused to give me the data. 

So I filed a Freedom of Informaiton Act Request for the data.  They told me it would take them 40 hours to find the data and I would have to pay about $1,400 for the trail files.  I told them it should only take 15 minutes to get the data and the Forest Service has sent me data while I was still on the phone asking for it.  I also asked for a public interest fee waiver.  I gave them a link to My Trails and pointed out thousands have downloaded my maps. 

In 2007 Congress amended FOIA to not allow them to charge search fees if they do not rule on the request within 20 days.  After 20 days, I pointed out they can no longer change me search fees since they missed the deadline.  They refused and I filed an appeal. 

8 months latter they ruled on my appeal.  First in spite of my link to this site, they basically claimed I was lying about making the maps and thousands of people downloading them and denied my fee wavier.  They also ruled thier 2002 regulations trumped the 2007 Amendments to FOIA.  In other words, they made the absurd argument that Congress cannot overturn thier requlations.

So a friend of mine filed a pro bono lawsuit.  The judge ruled in my favor today.  So the NPS has spent 10s of thousands of dollars to avoid letting citizens see on their GPS where the trails their tax dollars paid for are located! 


Your Government, at work, for you, their loyal subjects.
Garmin GPSMap 60cs, Dakota 20, Colorado 400t, Oregon 300/400t/450/550t/650/650t, Montana 650, Lowrance Endura Sierra, nuvi 3790, iPhone 3G/4/4s
Geocaching ID: Atlas Cached Ambassador


Great to hear that the ruling was in your favor.


Good to hear.  If GM doesn't come out with a geodatabase reader sometime soon, I may just have to use that approach on the CA BLM.


Supposed to be coming in version 13...

Quote07-01-2011 01:02 AM


That is on the top of the priority list for v13 now that the API is released. I will probably start working on it in a week or two.


Global Mapper Support


Keep your eyes peeled for a Beta in the next week or so.


This is great news; ridiculous amount of work required to make it happen.
Dan Blomberg
Administrator - GPSFileDepot
GPS Units: Garmin Dakota 20, Garmin GPSMap 60csx, Nuvi 255W, Nuvi 250W, ForeRunner 110, Fenix 2, Tactix Bravo, Foretrex 401
See/Download My Maps!


Wow!  Thanks for your work and your efforts on all our behalves.
The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.


I got the data today.  It looks like the NPS lied about how long it would have taken them to sort out the data I asked for.  IMHO, any copetent GIS person could have given me the data I asked for in less than an hour.  They were claiming they coulld not tell a file name like alley_sp_tr was a shapefile of the Alley Spring Trail.  It is just appalling what they went to too stop me from helping citizens better enjoy thier National Park!  I should have a new version of My Trails with the new data in a day or two. 



New to the site and glad to see someone win when tilting against entrenched forces with the wrong attitude.




congrad's. thanks for all your excellent maps.
George Carey


Well done. It's strange that the NPS would treat their trail information which was obtained using public employees on public land and using public money as if it is a secret or commodity. I can't believe the government these days.

Indrid Cold

With the state of the economy,  I'll be surprised if they don't change the laws and charge for any data like much of the world does.


Sadly, I think you're probably right. Generally speaking, we're very fortunate in the US to have so much free GIS data available - people in other countries have expressed envy in fact. But those servers and staff cost money, and at some point the various agencies are bound to take a closer look at their budgets. Tough choices these days. In the meantime, I just keep downloading everything I can find while it's still free.  :)