During the past six months, most Bureau of Land Management Web sites have been unavailable to the public: The agency has disconnected them for the fourth time in five years while officials attend to security concerns.
recent shutdown resulted from an ongoing class-action lawsuit
brought by Elouise Cobell on behalf of 500,000 Indians. The
plaintiffs claim that the Department of Interior owes them billions
of dollars in royalties and that it has endangered Indian trust
account data by storing it on insecure computers (HCN, 8/8/05:
Congress and Indians spar over lost money). Last April, the BLM
voluntarily shut down its Web sites, while it worked on security
problems. Now, Judge Royce Lamberth has extended that shutdown to
all Interior computers related to the Indian trust case.
Some documents usually found on state BLM sites — including
environmental impact statements and resource management plans
— are posted on the agency’s national page,
www.blm.gov. But the availability of these documents varies widely
from state to state, and they’re difficult to locate, says
Nada Culver of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center.
Linda Baker of the conservation group Upper Green Valley Coalition
says, "People can’t get access to information they need to
make informed decisions."
BLM officials won’t
comment on the agency’s failure to plug the security holes.
But Keith Harper, an attorney in the Cobell case, says the agency
is not unable to fix the problem — it’s unwilling.
"They have the money to fix it, and they’ve had the time to
fix it," he says. "Why has it taken so long?"