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Old 12-20-2003, 09:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Forest Service reverses course on e-mail block

Forest Service reverses course on e-mail block

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press Writer
Last Updated 4:38 p.m. PST Friday, December 19, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Forest Service is dropping a plan to ignore public comments from certain e-mail servers or on printed post cards.
The agency had said last spring that it intended to bar "duplicative materials" such as mass e-mails, form letters and printed post cards, on grounds that they added little to debate over forest decisions.

But civil liberties groups and activists on both sides of forest issues complained that the move would thwart public access to decision makers and diminish citizens' input on forest policy.

A spokeswoman said Thursday that the Forest Service never intended to shut the public out, but was abandoning the plan as a show of good faith.

"We were concerned that people misconstrued it - that we didn't care about what they were saying when in fact that's not the reason why we put it there," spokeswoman Heidi Valetkevitch said Thursday.

Civil libertarians and others who had opposed the e-mail blockade welcomed the reversal.

"We won!" said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that promotes online civil liberties. The foundation had led a coalition of groups, including the American Lung Association, League of Conservation Voters and the National Wildlife Federation, in protest of the plan.

In a letter to the White House budget office, the groups urged the Bush administration to encourage all government agencies to accept and review all public comments related to government rule-making, regardless of whether they are sent by e-mail or on printed post cards.

Environmental groups and businesses increasingly encourage people who agree with their positions to contact the government through their Web sites. Many also use preprinted letters and cards so the public can easily express opinions to government.
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Old 12-20-2003, 10:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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They still need to ignore the preprinted postcards. The BLM already has a policy inplace that they will ignore them.
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