When should I use a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request information?

All USGS products and publications are in the public domain. Most are readily available for free download on our website. Before launching a potentially time-consuming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, make sure that the information you need cannot be easily obtained by immediate means. Visit the USGS website, explore our FOIA Reading Room (with links to oft-requested documents), or contact us for assistance.

The FOIA gives the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. The FOIA does NOT require the USGS to answer questions about specific pieces of information, to render opinions, to conduct research for you, to create or certify records, to initiate investigations, to analyze or interpret records, to provide personal (rather than agency) records, to write new computer programs, or to reorganize a filing system. Some of those tasks (like certification of USGS products) can be initiated through different avenues. Contact the USGS to find out if what you need is readily available.

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How do I request information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

There are several ways to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request: Submit a request through the National FOIA Portal . Use the Department of the Interior’s FOIA Request Form . Email your request to foia@usgs.gov . Put “Freedom of Information Act Request” in the subject line. Write a letter to the USGS FOIA Office using one of the...

What USGS products are already publicly available?

As the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, we have numerous types of products. Most of these--including data, tools, maps, and publications--are publicly available through our website. Almost all digital materials can be downloaded at no cost to the public. For information about the availability of...

What information should I include in my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?

While you are not required to give a reason for your request, you should be as specific as possible when describing the records that you seek. That will produce faster and better results. Phrases like “any and all” can significantly delay the processing time and potentially increase your processing fee. Prior to submitting your request, we suggest...

Is there a cost for obtaining federal records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

By law, the USGS is authorized to charge Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing fees to requesters in order to recover the direct costs of search, review, and duplication of requested records. The fees depend on the requester category into which you fall. If the total costs of supplying the requested information is less than $50, the USGS...

How long will it take to process my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?

The USGS uses a multi-track processing system. We distinguish simple requests from more complex ones based on the estimated number of workdays needed to process the request. Factors include the number of pages involved in processing the request and the need for consultations with other federal agencies. Requests within each track are processed and...

Is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request confidential? Does my identity impact the results?

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are not confidential. Once a FOIA request is received, it becomes a public record of the USGS. If the request contains personally identifying information or the request is deemed “sensitive,” we may redact information under FOIA Exemption 6 (personal privacy). The identity of the FOIA requester does not...

Does the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cover contract-related requests?

Yes, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) covers contract-related requests. Prior to submitting your request, check USAspending.gov to determine what information about the contract is already publicly available. If you decide to submit a FOIA request, please provide the award ID number or the name of the awardee so that we can quickly search for...

How do I check the status of my U.S. Geological Survey Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?

Check the status of your FOIA request using the Department of the Interior’s Track Your FOIA Request webpage. Additionally, you can check the status of your FOIA request (This is only for information from the U.S. Geological Survey) by contacting the USGS FOIA office using any of the following methods: Email: foia@usgs.gov Mail: P.O. Box 411, Bel...

What information/data is NOT covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

Information/data that is NOT covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) includes: Non-agency records and personal records. Public requests for access to physical artifacts or scientific samples (e.g. core samples, sediment, rocks, fossils, specimen samples, blood samples). Access to some samples can be arranged through our laboratories...

What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine...
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sample storage
June 30, 2016

National Geochemical Sample Archive

USGS National Geochemical Sample Archive in Denver, Colorado.

Stacks of organized boxes containing trays of archived samples splits in the National Geochemical Sample Archive, Denver, CO.

Archived samples splits in the National Geochemical Sample Archive

Stacks of organized boxes containing trays of archived samples splits in the National Geochemical Sample Archive, Denver, CO.

Image: On File at the Field Records Collection
April 1, 2008

On File at the Field Records Collection

The Field Records Collection in Denver houses materials generated from nearly 130 years of scientific investigations by more than 1200 scientists. The Denver Library, Field Records Collection includes approximately 24,000 notebooks (pictured) and files, 6000 map groups, and 80,000 aerial photographs Materials are stored in various vertical files, rolling files, map files,

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Graphic - Archives
April 3, 2018

Graphic - Archives

Graphic - Archive

Image: New Accessions Arriving at Field Records
April 1, 2008

New Accessions Arriving at Field Records

Materials arrive from across the country to be accessioned and processed at the Denver Library, Field Records Collection. Geologic Discipline scientists are encouraged to deposit their project materials and with the Field Records Collection. Materials in the collection are managed as Federal records to ensure ongoing access in perpetuity for future researchers.

Flood-inundation map from coastal water-surface elevation data, Hurricane Harvey

Flood-inundation map from coastal water-surface elevation data, Hurric

Flood-inundation map from coastal water-surface elevation data for the August and September 2017 Hurricane Harvey-related flood event in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

Image: Records Preservation
April 9, 2009

Records Preservation

Older materials and recently arrived items in the Field Records Collection are in various states of preservation and documentation. In the current reorganization project, items are inventoried for content, transferred to archival storage containers, and archived as shelf items (notebooks and file folders), flat files (maps and diagrams), or in rolls (large-format maps and

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