For those who don’t know, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been moving to a new website over the last several months. Far from a seamless transition, however, the move has been a complete disaster.
In the last several weeks, the agency seems to have completely disconnected its old website, effectively erasing any content that once existed on the web. While this wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Bureau had migrated all its content to the new website, unfortunately, this hasn’t happened. Making matters worse, the new website seems to be incomplete, lacks cohesion and any semblance of organization, is slow to load, and barely registers on web searches.
The result has been a complete web catastrophe: Information that was once publicly available is no longer accessible, public access to information and web pages seems to have been eliminated, and, more than ever, Americans are in the dark when it comes to the functions and actions of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Let’s be clear, no matter what your interest or agenda is, this is a major affront to transparency. It also underscores how President Trump and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, are bent on shutting out the public out of the management of public lands and resources.
For years, the American public has relied on the Bureau of Land Management’s websites to access all sorts of information: recreation maps; instructions for filing applications for permits and claims; reports and analyses; news updates; staff contact information; and more. Now, it’s pretty much all gone.
Here’s just a few examples of important public information that’s disappeared:
- Documents related to the Alton coal lease, a massive new coal strip mining proposal being considered by the Bureau of Land Management in southern Utah. A Google search for “Alton coal lease and “Bureau of Land Management”” yields a bunch of Bureau of Land Management website links, none of which work. Click for yourself, https://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/ut/lands_and_minerals/coal/alton_coal_project.Par.62238.File.dat/3__Alton%20DEIS%20Abstract.pdf.
- Looking for information related to Wilderness Study Areas on Bureau of Land Management lands? Sorry, page not found, https://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/blm_special_areas/NLCS/wilderness_study_areas.html.
- Let’s say you want to file a mining claim and you do a Google search for “”bureau of land management” and how to file a mining claim”.” Sorry, you’re out of luck, that site can’t be found, https://www.blm.gov/noc/st/en/business/eForms/mc.html.
- And if you think this is just massive incompetence, think again. Go to the Bureau of Land Management site and do a search for “Bears Ears National Monument.” Here’s what you get:
With Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signaling his opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument (and other National Monuments for that matter) it’s probably not a surprise that the Bureau of Land Management would scrub its website of all mention of this newly protected landscape. Fortunately, while the Bureau of Land Management may be withholding information related to the Bears Ears National Monument, the Monument–and the Bears Ears–still exist and still as stunning and amazing as ever.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that we’re hearing the agency has been inundated with public complaints over its shoddy web transition. We’ve heard that even Bureau of Land Management staff, who have also relied on the agency’s old website, have been raising complaints.
The Bureau of Land Management has already been under fire for using its website to promote fossil fuel industry interests, but this absolute elimination of online access and information is a scandal of epic proportions.
In an effort to get to the bottom of this and really figure out what’s going on behind the scenes here, WildEarth Guardians just submitted a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to the Bureau of Land Management for records related to the new website development, the migration of content, and anything else that they may have on file. You can access these requests through our FOIA Repository website here >> (scroll down to see our latest requests related to the website, and as an FYI, we also sent a companion request for records related to the Bureau of Land Management’s ePlanning website, an online database of the agency’s projects and actions that has proven problematic as well).
Ironically, the Bureau of Land Management’s new website lacks any information on how to submit Freedom of Information Act requests to the agency. While the agency’s old website listed all its FOIA contacts and addresses, including e-mail and physical addresses, the new website has only a vague statement on what to include in a FOIA request.
Under the leadership of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management seems bent on undermining and eliminating transparency. All Americans should be deeply concerned. Stay tuned as we learn more about this massive web disaster.
We were informed by colleagues that we may have hit the Bureau of Land Management’s search engine at the wrong time this morning. If you go to the agency’s webpage and search “Bears Ears National Monument” now, there are actually some entries that come up. That’s a relief, but still, what’s the deal? Did the Bureau of Land Management program a search engine that only functions after noon? Still a mess and still a disaster.