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The US National Forest service enters into leases with individuals that entitle the lease holder to use National Forest land for some explicitly outlined purpose. These leases are called special-use authorizations and you can read about them here. Examples of these authorizations or leases include many large ski resorts, 14,000 or so cabins that are part of the Forest Service "Cabin Program", and many others.

My question is, are the terms of existing authorizations (permits, term permits, leases, easements) available to the public? If I want to see how much a certain ski resort pays the US Forest Service for use of their land and for how long they have secured rights to that land, can I look that information up somewhere? If not, then is this the type of the thing that would be subject to a FOIA request?

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Generally speaking, these are public records that can be obtained with a FOIA request if the agency does not provide them to you voluntarily. Newspapers periodically run stories based on such information.

Most of the information is either recorded in local real estate records or is available for inspection at the relevant agency office during reasonable business hours. Some of that information might require a FOIA request.

It is possible that certain information deemed to constitute "trade secrets" might be redacted and information such as account numbers and taxpayer ID numbers would routinely be redacted.

  • Thanks! When you say "if the agency does not provide them voluntarily" do you mean that I might be able to call up the National Forest Service national or local offices and request those leases? And who would I contact for local real estate records? The county assessor? – Jim Nov 6 '17 at 3:04
  • @Jim You would probably have to go in person to the relevant office and might call around to see which office it is located at. The clerk and recorder would have the real estate records. The assessor's records are based upon the clerk and recorder's records but aren't as comprehensive or authoritative. – ohwilleke Nov 6 '17 at 14:41

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