The 1986 FOIA amendment
mandates reduced or waived fees if disclosure "is in the public
interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public
understanding of the operations and activities of the Government and
is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester."
5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)(iii).
The Department of Agriculture has published FOIA guidelines for agencies
to follow in making fee waiver determinations. The guidelines, found
at 7 CFR, Subtitle A, Part 1, Subpart A, Appendix A, Section 6(a)(1),
list six factors to be taken into consideration when assessing fee waiver
(1) The subject of the request, i.e., whether the subject of the requested
records concerns "the operations or activities of the government";
(2) The informative value of the information to be disclosed, i.e.,
whether the disclosure is "likely to contribute" to an understanding
of government operations or activities. (The requester bears the burden
of identifying "with reasonable specificity" the public interest
(3) The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general
public likely to result from disclosure, i.e., whether disclosure of
the requested information will contribute to "public understanding".
(Factor 3 concerns whether disclosure of the information will contribute
to the public at large, and requires the requester to have the ability
to disseminate the information to the general public. Requesters cannot
satisfy the standard merely by representing that they will make the
information available to others. Requesters have the burden of demonstrating
with particularity that the information will be communicated to the
(4) The significance of the contribution to public understanding, i.e.,
whether the disclosure is likely to contribute "significantly"
to public understanding of government operations or activities. (The
public benefit should be "identified with reasonable specificity".)
(5) The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest, i.e., whether
the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the
requested disclosure; and if so,
(6) The primary interest in disclosure, i.e., whether the magnitude
of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently
large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure
is "primarily in the commercial interest of the requester."
(Factor 6 requires an agency to balance the requester's commercial interest
against the identified public interest in disclosure and determine which
interest is "primary.")
In addition to supplying information addressing each of the above fee
waiver factors, you might consider submitting copies of the articles
of incorporation of your organization, the constitution and bylaws of
the organization, and publications of your organization including, but
not limited to, newsletters, membership brochures, and fundraising solicitations.
It will also be beneficial for you to demonstrate past instances where
your organization used information provided by the Forest Service to
significantly benefit the public at large. To do this you might consider
providing samples including brochures, books, educational videos, newsletters,
memoranda from public meetings your organization has conducted, educational
presentations your organization has given, television and radio interviews,
press releases, testimony before Congress, and newspaper articles.
Since any waiver or reduction in fees is an expenditure of public funds,
please provide us with information responsive to the items listed above.
We will not proceed with the duplication of documents until a determination
has been made on your request for a fee waiver or until we receive an
indication of your willingness to pay the charges in connection with