Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance vs. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

2024 case over BLM withholding documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act

The Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance is seeking a federal court order to compel the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to release important documents related to the limestone mine.

Suit filed as appeals over blacked-out pages go unanswered

Rocky Mountain Industrials announced plans in 2018 to expand the Transfer Trail limestone quarry from its present 20 acres to a permitted size of 447 acres, and a year-round limestone mining operation lasting 20 years or longer, all on federal lands adjacent to the city of Glenwood Springs.

The proposal shocked the Glenwood Springs community. Residents banded together to form the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance.

After observing current quarry operations and raising concerns about permit compliance, Alliance members sought more information from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Alliance filed requests for documents about mine operations, limestone sales and permit enforcement actions, under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The group filed requests in 2018, 2019 and again in 2022.

While BLM delivered some of the requested documents over several installments, the agency withheld or blacked out thousands of pages.

“Many of the documents that BLM did produce were so heavily blacked-out, they were unreadable and essentially meaningless,” said Jeff Peterson, president of the Citizens’ Alliance.

Certain types of documents that BLM willingly released in response to the Alliance’s 2018 and 2019 Freedom of Information Act requests, such as limestone sales invoices, were withheld when the Alliance made its follow-up request in 2022.

“BLM never offered any justification for this abrupt change. It simply blacked-out entire sets of documents,” Peterson said.

The Citizens’ Alliance filed administrative appeals to the U.S. Department of Interior over the withheld documents in 2020, 2021 and 2023, but to date, the agency hasn’t issued a decision on any of the three appeals.

“Because BLM and Interior have refused our requests for public documents, and the appeals process has yielded no results, we had no choice but to ask the federal court to order the agency to release the documents,” said Peterson.

On Feb. 15, 2024, the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in U.S. District Court in Denver, seeking the release of the withheld and blacked-out documents.

Attorneys Roger Flynn and Jeff Parsons with the Western Mining Action Project, in Lyons, and Travis Stills with Energy and Conservation Law, in Durango, are representing the Citizens’ Alliance in the suit.

The Rocky Mountain Industrials limestone mine as seen in February 2024.

What has happened so far:

February 15, 2024: GSCA files a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in U.S. District Court in Denver. The case calls on the federal court to order BLM to release documents that have been withheld or blacked out. The documents were requested by the GSCA in 2018, 2019 and 2022 under the Freedom of Information Act.

Download the Feb. 15, 2024, complaint here.

"The limestone mine and the mine expansion are like a black cloud hanging over our community. The public has a right to know what is happening on public lands so close to our city." - Jeff Peterson, President, Glenwood Springs Citizens' Alliance