Public Relations

055 FW 7
FWM Number
Originating Office
Division of Visitor Services and Communication

7.1 Policy. Field office personnel will actively involve themselves in effective communications between the Service and the general public. (See also 115 FW 1.)

7.2 Objectives. The objectives of public relations by field offices are:

A. To foster a spirit of cooperation and goodwill between field office staff and residents in the vicinity of the field office.

B. To foster communications with State and other Federal agencies, sportsmen, and other special interest groups, especially those constituents who have expressed an interest in field office programs.

C. To keep the public informed about field office objectives, programs, policies, and activities.

7.3 Fostering Good Public Relations. Good public relations depend upon many factors. Important among these is open and continuing communication between the field office and the public. Various means are available to project leaders by which information can be effectively communicated to the public. These include:

A. Public Contacts. Field office programs are of major public interest. It is the responsibility of field office personnel to keep the public advised of approved programs and policies which affect field office work through formal news media, public speeches, informal contacts, and other communication methods. The dissemination of information regarding Service programs, policies, and objectives can serve to educate the public, build an identity for the Service, and possibly lessen future conflicts with groups or individuals who would support Service activities if they understood the reasons why particular actions are taken.

Field office employees may at times be asked questions by the public regarding field office problems or policies. All employees must understand that they are responsible for accurate communications and should provide only facts which can be substantiated.

It is the responsibility of the project leader to ensure that internal lines of communication are kept open. In this way, employees will be better prepared to handle questions from the public when they arise and be aware of which questions to answer and which to seek help in answering. An employee's personal feelings toward a policy should at no time be made public if those feelings are contrary to Service policy.

B. News Media Interviews (television, radio, and newspaper). Interviews with representatives of local newspapers, or other publications of limited circulation (region or district), and of local radio and television stations are encouraged, subject to requirements designed to prevent releasing inaccurate or improper information. One copy of material published or broadcast as a result of such interviews should be sent to the Regional Office.

News clippings which are significant will be forwarded for review and filing in Headquarters by the Regional Office.

C. News Releases. The first requisite for a good working relationship with the news media is to have one single, reliable source to whom news persons can come when they need information about the field office and/or the Service. Providing such a source helps to ensure that all news media receive the identical information and that the information is correct.

That "single source of information" for a field office should be the project leader or a designated key staff person who has authority to speak on field office policy and programs. All news media releases, written or verbal, that are of a "routine" nature may be issued from the designated field office staff member without further review by the Regional Office and/or Headquarters.

Prior to issuing statements related to controversial or potentially controversial subjects, review all policy statements, guidelines, administrative directives, and correspondence related to these subjects. If questions exist that need clarification, contact the Regional Office before making or issuing the statement. Advance knowledge allows time to issue a general news release, if one is called for, or to prepare an official statement that can be used as guidance in responding to questions.

The likelihood of the media using the "routine" news release is enhanced if the release is issued several days to one week in advance of the event to which it pertains. With sufficient lead time, it is more than likely that an editor or radio-television news director will consider a story for use, based on its merits, space (or air time) available, its newsworthiness in comparison to the other "news of the day," and other editorial judgements.

D. Community Affairs. The involvement of field office personnel in activities and affairs that will improve relations with the local community is encouraged. Examples of these activities include local service clubs, youth groups, sportsmen's groups, or other local organizations.

Whenever practical or desirable, field office personnel may, without specific formal authorization, attend local meetings, conferences, etc., for the purpose of giving or acquiring information pertinent to the work of the Service. If the opportunity is afforded and the public and the Service will benefit, they may participate in the programs of such meetings.

7.4 Checklist of Newsworthy Events. Many types of events, policies, or developments deserve public announcement or contact. The following items serve as a checklist for potential newsworthy events which may deserve public relations activities.

A. Personnel.

(1) New people on the staff.

(2) Promotions or transfers.

(3) Retirements.

(4) Awards.

B. Facilities.

(1) New visitor centers, structures of any kind, plans for remodeling, moving or razing facilities.

(2) Hunting blinds, boat launches, fishing piers, etc.

(3) Interpretive programs.

(4) Transportation plans or installations.

(5) Groundbreaking ceremonies, dedications, or open house events.

(6) Seasonal openings and closings.

C. Community Relations.

(1) Use of field office facilities/resources for a broad community purpose, such as a school environmental education program.

(2) Participation in local activities or programs.

(3) Services to the community, such as fund drives, speakers, services of personnel, emergency aid, loan of equipment.

D. Special Items.

(1) Proposed changes in field office regulations.

(2) Unusual uses of a field office: scientific studies, archeological recoveries, public hearings, etc.

(3) Proposed changes in field office management, including draft master plans, Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, etc.

(4) Wildlife or nature news or features.

(5) Recreational opportunities.

(6) Children or youth affairs.

7.5 Restricted Publicity. Field office personnel should not discuss problems with or possible changes to proposed regulations after they have been published in the Federal Register  and before they have been finalized (see Part 202 of the Service Manual); the Service's or Department's proposed budget before it is submitted to the Congress by the President (250 FW 1); and major or highly controversial matters better handled at higher levels in the Service (115 FW 1).

Personnel are also cautioned against disseminating specific information in regard to the acquisition of lands, including the location of proposed refuges or hatcheries, the limits of refuges or hatcheries already approved but not yet purchased, the appraised value of lands acquired or to be acquired, prices agreed upon for lands optioned or approved for purchase, and contemplated condemnation.

No publicity regarding the names and addresses of persons apprehended violating Federal or State game laws should be given out except where the offender has been arrested and arraigned before a United States Magistrate or the case against the offender has been finally disposed of in a Federal or State Court.

Amended by Decision Memorandum, “Approval of Revisions to ~350 Directives to Remove Gender-Specific Pronouns,” 6/22/2022