Letter to William Thomas 12/30/93

United States Department of Agriculture
Office of the General Counsel
Washington. D.C. 20250-1400

December 30, 1993

Mr. William Thomas
P.O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038

Dear Mr. Thomas:

Thank you for your comments dated December 5 and 15, 1993, concerning the proposed regulations for group use of the national forests and for your request concerning the propriety of a meeting with executive branch officials to discuss the proposed rule.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on May 6, 1993, at Volume 58, Number 86, pages 26940-26946. The proposed rule would revise the existing rules governing noncommercial group events and noncommercial distribution of printed material within the National Forest System. These revisions would ensure that the authorization procedures for these activities comply with First Amendment requirements of free speech and assembly. The public comment period closed on August 4, 1993. No individual responses to comments received will be made. Comments received by August 4 will be fully considered and addressed in the publication of the final rule.

You have requested under the Freedom of Information Act (the FOIA) the legal authority on which we rely for declining to meet separately with individuals or groups during the rulemaking process. This type of request does not fall within the FOIA because there is no document that is responsive to your request. Nevertheless, we would still like to respond.

A key aspect of informal rulemaking is equal opportunity for all to participate. Meeting with you separately would deny that opportunity to others who have expressed interest by commenting on the proposed rule. See Administrative Conference of the United States, Recommendation No. 77-3, Ex Parte Communications in Informal Rulemaking Proceedings, reprinted in 1 C.F.R. 305.77-3; Office of the Chairman, Administrative Conference of the United States, A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking 232 (2d ed. 1991).

To the extent that this letter may be a "no records" response, the FOIA provides you the right to appeal this determination to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the General Counsel, Room 4622-S, 14th & Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-1400, within 45 days from the date of this letter. 5 U.S.C. 6 552(a)(6)(A)(i). The term "FOIA APPEAL" should be placed in capital letters on the front of the envelope.

Thank you for your interest in the management of the national forests.


Ellen R. Hornstein
Attorney Advisor
Natural Resources Division

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