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GWS Citizens' Alliance files suit against the BLM

A 300-foot rockslide emerged in Jan. 2023 above current mining operations at Rocky Mountain Industrials' limestone quarry near Glenwood Springs.
Photo courtesy of Glenwood Springs Citizens' Alliance
A 300-foot rockslide emerged in Jan. 2023 above current mining operations at Rocky Mountain Industrials' limestone quarry near Glenwood Springs.

The Bureau of Land Management or BLM has been less than forthcoming in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests from the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance for information on Rocky Mountain Industrial’s limestone quarry near Glenwood Springs. The group, which is opposed to the expansion of the mine, filed a lawsuit in February to get the agency to comply. KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh has this update.

"MARSH: Redactions. You know. Those heavy black lines through a document that looks like someone took a Sharpie to it? That’s the problem the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance is facing with the Bureau of Land Management. The group began filing Freedom of Information Act or FOIA requests to the agency in 2018.

HEATHER MCGREGOR: We began that year filing what became a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to the BLM seeking some documents that related to mine operations, limestone sales, and BLM's permit enforcement actions.

MARSH: Heather McGregor is vice-president of the Citizen’s Alliance board of directors. The limestone quarry she’s talking about sits above Glenwood Springs well within sight of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. It was purchased by Rocky Mountain Industrials or RMR in 2016 and has been plagued with permit violations and litigation since 2018, and a major rockside in early 2023.
McGregor told KDNK that the requests began after RMR announced a planned 321-acre expansion in 2018. At first, she said, it looked like the BLM was responding. The agency sent the group thousands of pages of documents.

HM: But what we noticed right off the bat was that many of those documents or parts of those documents were blacked out or what they call “redactions”. So we filed appeals to those redactions, seeking to know what more information was being hidden behind those blacked-out sections.

MARSH: Basically, the issue is… that even though the BLM sent the requested information, it was essentially meaningless due to the heavy redactions.
The group filed three separate FOIA requests in 2018, 2019, and 2022 and three appeals. But, says McGregor, those filings have gone unanswered.

HM: So we've gone through the required hoops and we're just being met with silence.

MARSH: Hence, a lawsuit. Another lawsuit, in fact. The Citizens Alliance first sued the BLM in 2020 about permit enforcement issues, charging the agency with failing to properly regulate mining activity. But, the previous year, RMI sued Garfield County in state AND federal courts instead of complying with a county permit violation.
But back to the current FOIA suit. Ellen Dole, a retired U.S. Housing and Urban Development attorney, is also on the Citizens Alliance board.

ELLEN DOLE: FOIA requests are very specific. And the agency has certain obligations in their review of the FOIA request - to comply specifically with the standards for FOIA  - and that's why we filed this lawsuit because we don't feel that they followed those requirements of the federal statute.

MARSH: The Citizens Alliance is asking for more intact pages, explanations of any exemptions, access to information that does not fall under an exemption, and assurance that a full document search has been completed.

ED: Unless we understand what's going on there, what the plans are, what BLM knows, what RMI is proposing to do, how they've been using the property, we can't make informed judgments to protect our community. The whole point of FOIA is to allow us to know what's going on. And by redacting those documents, by not releasing them, by not being fully open and transparent, we can't do that."

More information about the quarry’s history, including litigation and more, is at LoveGlenwood.org.

Amy Hadden Marsh’s reporting goes back to 1990 and includes magazine, radio, newspaper and online work. She has previously served as reporter and news director for KDNK Community Radio, earning Edward R. Murrow and Colorado Broadcasters Association awards for her work. She also writes for Aspen Journalism and received a Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies award in 2023 for a story on the Uinta Basin Railway. Her photography has also won awards. She holds a Masters in Investigative Journalism from Regis University.