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June 5, 2009
In Reply Refer To:
1278, 8270 (240) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2009-138
Expires:  09/30/2010
To:                   All SD’s, CD’s and AD’s
                        Attn: Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Freedom of Information Act
                        (FOIA) Coordinators
From:               Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject:           Confidentiality of Paleontological Locality Information under the Omnibus Public
Lands Act of 2009 (123 Stat. 991), Title VI, Subtitle D, Paleontological Resources Preservation (OPLA-PRP)

Program Areas:  FOIA, Paleontological Resources Management

Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) establishes policy regarding the confidentiality of paleontological locality information under the provisions of the OPLA-PRP.
Policy/Action:  Public Law 111-011, Title VI, Subtitle D, Section 6304 requires that paleontological locality information associated with paleontological resources use permits remain confidential as well as information concerning the nature and location of the paleontological resource.

For paleontological resources use permits, Section 6304 states,

“(c) Permit Specifications- A permit for the collection of a paleontological resource issued under this section shall contain such terms and conditions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this subtitle. Every permit shall include requirements that—

*          *          *          *          *
(3) Specific locality data will not be released by the permittee or repository without the written permission of the Secretary.”
In accordance with the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. Section 552(b), the OPLA-PRP establishes particular criteria for withholding certain paleontological records under exemption 3. 

Specifically, Section 6309 states, 

“Information concerning the nature and specific location of a paleontological resource shall be exempt from disclosure under Section 552 of title 5, United States Code, and any other law unless the Secretary determines that disclosure would— 
  1. Further the purposes of this subtitle;
  2. Not create risk of harm to or theft or destruction of the resource or the site containing the resource; and
  3. Be in accordance with other applicable laws.” 

The OPLA-PRP requires that the Secretary develop implementing regulations. The Department of the Interior is in the process of deciding whether this section of the Act will need further description in the regulations.

Timeframe: This guidance is effective immediately for all BLM offices.

Background:  Public Law 111-011, Title VI, Subtitle D, Paleontological Resources Preservation, is BLM’s new legal authority governing preservation, protection, and management of paleontological resources on public lands. 

Budget Impact:  Costs are minimal for implementation of this policy.

Manual/Handbook Affected: Policy regarding confidentiality of locality data in Manual Section (MS) 8270, “Paleontological Resources Management” is now superseded by the OPLA_PRP. This manual section will be revised after the final regulations have been promulgated or new policy and direction in accordance with the Act are issued. The OPLA-PRP also affects MS 1278, “External Access to BLM Information” by adding a new FOIA Exemption 3 statute which is used to protect confidentiality of paleontological resources.  

Coordination:  This IM has been coordinated jointly by the Washington Office Division of Cultural, Paleontological Resources and Tribal Consultation and the IRM Governance Directorate. 

Contact: For questions regarding application of this policy and guidance, please contact Lucia Kuizon, National Paleontologist, at (202) 452-5107 or lkuizon@blm.gov; or Laura Bell, FOIA/PA Program Analyst, at (202) 452-5013 or lfbell@blm.gov.
Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson                                                      Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                                       Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

Last updated: 10-20-2009