NPS Takes Contrary Positions On Releasing Concessioner Revenue Data Under FOIA

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The National Park Service (NPS) recently refused to release the annual gross receipts of one of its concessioner in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), asserting that it was confidential business information of the concessioner.  The requestor sought the information in an effort to determine if NPS was implementing a consistent method for assessing franchise fees under its various concession contracts.  After the initial FOIA request was denied, the requestor sought reconsideration and demonstrated that NPS had released the same data in response to prior requests, and that the data was typically released in each prospectus issued by NPS.  NPS denied the reconsideration request with no further explanation.

In this particular case, the requestor operated under a concession contract pursuant to which it provided services inside a National Park unit.  The requestor, however, also provided services outside of the National Park unit.  NPS had taken the position that the revenue from all of the concessioner’s services, even those outside the Park unit, were to be used to assess the franchise fee.  The requestor had noted that NPS had taken a different position with regard to at least one other concession operation based on a Franchise Fee Analysis report prepared by NPS’s experts.  The requestor stated in its requests to NPS that it is seeking the information to determine if the agency is using a consistent approach among its concessioners to calculating franchise fees and it relied on the government’s assertion that the FOIA “keeps citizens in the know about their government.”   The requestor intends to appeal the denial.

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