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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

 

-- Freedom of Information Act Requests --

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First, for any latecomers to this line of posts, here's a link to the original letter-exchange put up by "Houston" at IBWO Researchers Forum that started the ball rolling on this tangent:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwTmMmXDrBKnRDc0RjBzVXl1NDg/edit

Again, you can also read my posts starting with 5/31, and followed on 6/2, 6/15, 7/4, and 7/7 to catch up.

 [The simple question we are trying to get to the bottom of is whether or not there were any private (timber industry), or governmental lands in the late 1960s/early 70s that were specifically managed for the presence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, and if so was such action based on any evidence for the species beyond what is already in the public literature?]

Of the documents Houston more recently posted to the Forum, I find this 1985 letter from Dr. John Funderburg (a naturalist and museum director, since deceased) to a USFWS official regarding a study of the IBWO, quite interesting, simply because of some of the opinions expressed:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwTmMmXDrBKnWHJ5YmxmV01LUEk/edit


[Many of the other documents Houston has received are HERE.]

Anyway, I asked Houston if he'd be willing to send along a little primer on making FOIA requests for IBWO documents, for anyone else interested in doing so, and he kindly sent along the following info (and also confided he's still learning as he goes):

Some state agencies have an official form to complete. Others provide a sample letter to modify, and there is usually an easy email submission process. Here's an example of the basic letter format Houston uses:
...................................................................................

 Freedom of Information Act Request

        [date]
I am requesting all < name of government body> communications and documents held from 1900 - present that mention, refer or relate to the presence or possible presence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the state of < State>. These should include but may not be limited to sighting reports, follow up investigation reports, search reports, habitat assessments, management plans, and other internal communications.

The following documents are in my possession and may be excluded from the response:
       [list of documents that may be excluded]


Please also exclude any correspondence or reports that are specific to ongoing search efforts by private citizens.
 
Documents in the response will be shared with other Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers on http://www.ibwo.net/ to provide the public with a better understanding of how to respond to claims of Ivory-bill sightings, and what management practices are considered and implemented for potential Ivory-bill Woodpecker habitat. I am therefore requesting a fee waiver. If a fee assessment is required, please advise if the amount exceeds $25.00.

Thank you in advance,
       [Your name, address and phone number]
...................................................................................
 He notes that the governmental agency contacted is supposed to respond within a week or so (variable) to confirm receipt of the request, and that thus far he hasn't had to pay any fees. The agency may ask questions in order to clarify certain points, and may ask in what format (hard copy or pdf) the requester would like the documents.  And then it may take days, weeks, or months to receive the documents.

 Anyone wishing more details about the procedure can private message Houston over at the Researchers Forum for further assistance. (If you're not a member of the Forum I s'pose you can send any inquiries to me for forwarding to him.) 

Further, Houston sent along contact info for a number of states of interest, and notes that it may be helpful (but not necessary) to be a resident of the state you are contacting: 


Louisiana
http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/contact

Florida
http://myfwc.com/contact/public-records-requests/

Mississippi
http://www.mdwfp.com/applications/ContactForm/default.aspx

South Carolina
http://www.dnr.sc.gov/admin/foia.html

Alabama
http://www.outdooralabama.com/contact/ 


Tennessee Wildlife
P.O. Box 40747
Nashville, TN, 37204
attn: Executive Director
 or email melinda.raymond@tn.gov

Georgia
Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
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Now don't everyone file your inquiries at the same time....

Anyway, great information; thanks for sharing it Houston.

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Comments:
Although I've posted documents pertaining to some of the listed states, they were sent to me by USFWS. I have not sent requests to any of the states listed, and they may have documents not held by FWS.
 
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