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Federal agency agrees to improve FOIA responses

By Associated Press
Published On: Jan 02 2013 01:27:31 PM MST
Witnesses testify in Park County bison trial
HELENA, Mont. -

The federal agency responsible for protecting animal and plant health is changing how it responds to public-records requests as part of a lawsuit settlement.
   
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will now provide an explanation when it claims that unusual circumstances prevent the agency from responding on time to Freedom of Information Act requests.
   
The agency's responses also will include a phone number or website to track requests and its staff will be trained on responding to requests.
   
A Montana wildlife advocacy group sued in 2012 over six delayed responses and a failure to turn over all requested documents related to wild bison from Yellowstone National Park.
   
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy accepted the settlement with the Buffalo Field Campaign on Dec. 21.