FWS Importer Information Release: How to Request an Exemption

Date of Publication: June 7, 2021

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently received a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that requires them to release information relating to the import and export of wildlife and flora specimens contained in the Law Enforcement Management Information System, or LEMIS. For importers who deal with wildlife and flora, here is what to know about the FOIA request and who is impacted by it—and how importers can request an exemption from having their information released.

Information Included in the Request

The FOIA request applies to information stored in LEMIS from 1999 and from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2021. The records in LEMIS related to the import and export of all wildlife specimens and flora products. Examples of information stored in LEMIS include:

  • Importer/exporter names and information including their address, phone number, and email address
  • Import/export license number
  • Automobile license number
  • Bonded location of wildlife
  • Number of cartons
  • Foreign Shipper Receiver (FSR) details including the FSR’s name, location, and contact information
  • Total value of items containing wildlife

To learn what information pertaining to their business may be released due to the FOIA request, importers and exporters can contact FWS by email at fwhq_foia@fws.gov or send a fax to (703) 358-2271.

How To Request an Exemption

In some cases, importers and exporters may want to request an exemption to have their information in LEMIS excluded from the release. Exemptions might be requested if the information:

  • Contains trade secrets
  • Is privileged or confidential

If there is a reason why certain information should not be included in the FOIA release, importers and exporters have until June 11, 2021 to request an exemption. When doing so, they must:

  • Provide a detailed statement that explains the grounds for withholding the information
  • Explain why the information is a trade secret
  • Provide certification that, if the information is not a trade secret, shows that their business both customarily and actually treats the information as private
  • Provide any background information on if the information was provided to the government under the assurance that the government would keep it private

To submit a rejection, FWS can be contacted through:

  • Email at Submitter_Notice@fws.gov
  • Fax at (703) 358-2271
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement (FOIA), 5275 Leesburg Pike (MS: OLE), Falls Church, Virginia 220

Any objections to the FOIA release must be submitted by June 11, 2021. If a submission is not received, it will be presumed that there is no objection and the information may be released without redaction.

This content is intended for informational purposes. Due to the generality of this content, the provided information may not be applicable in all situations. We encourage the reader to review the most up-date-regulations directly with the U.S. government’s sources on the FOIA request and the June 11, 2021 deadline, which can be found here.