U.S. Navy fails to adequately respond to FOIA request, prompting litigation.
SEATTLE, WA – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Navy for repeatedly withholding information regarding its “Growler” jet training activities over Olympic National Park. This action is a result of the Navy’s failure to fully respond to numerous public information requests from NPCA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). NPCA initially submitted the FOIA request back in 2016 to determine the impacts of the Navy’s training exercises over one of the quietest places in the lower 48 states. Today’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.
Through this case, NPCA seeks information to provide thorough and thoughtful responses to the public comment period regarding the Navy’s training exercises over the Park. “Unfortunately, the Navy has forced us to go to court due to their failure to provide the documentation necessary for NPCA and the public to make informed comments on the impacts of their latest proposal,” according to Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We recognize the Navy’s training needs, but also value the importance of preserving natural sights and sounds for visitors and wildlife at one of the quietest places in America, the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park.”
The Navy released its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement last month for its proposal, which would extend training operations over the Olympics to 2025, while potentially increasing the frequency of flights.
Olympic National Park is the most popular national park in the Northwest, attracting over 3.1 million visitors in 2018, and is consistently regarded as the “least noise-polluted” place in the Lower 48 states. The significance of this park has not gone unrecognized, leading to a World Heritage Site designation for its unique landscape and environment of international significance. In addition to the exceptional quiet of this site, the park is full of natural sounds, such as the whistles of the Olympic Marmot and bugling call of the Roosevelt Elk. However, the tranquility of the park has already been disrupted by the periodic roar of Navy Growler jets, one of the loudest aircraft in the skies. The latest proposal from the Navy could intensify this deafening roar by increasing the number of flights over the Olympics to 5000 per year. NPCA has long fought to protect the soundscape for the wildlife and park visitors who come here to enjoy the peace and solitude.
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About National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org/100
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Former West Coast Communications Manager