United States Department of the Interior

Washington, D.C. 20240

July 27, 2004

To: All Employees 

From: J. Steven Griles, Deputy Secretary /signed/

Subject: Identifying and Managing Non-Records

This memorandum is intended to help employees manage documents generated in the course of Departmental activities by providing guidance on how to distinguish Federal records from non-record materials. Departmental employees are not obligated to retain non-record material and may usually dispose of it when no longer needed for reference. Some material, such as Privacy Act information or classified information, may be subject to specific requirements regarding whether it is permissible to maintain non-record copies and, if so, whether additional steps are needed for disposal. Employees should consult their records officers about these types of materials. 

The first determination when considering the status of a given document is whether the document is a Federal record.

Federal records, as defined in 44 U.S.C. § 3301, are those documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that meet both of the following conditions:

(1) They are made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business, and

(2) They are preserved or appropriate for preservation as evidence of agency organization and activities or because of the value of the information they contain. 

Documents may become Federal records when:

Used in an official capacity to support an action or decision; or

Attached as supporting or background information to memoranda, correspondence or other record materials. 

By contrast, non-record materials are defined as documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that do not meet the conditions of Federal record status or that specifically are excluded from status as Federal records by statute. The following are expressly excluded by statute: 

(1) Library and museum material (but only if such material is made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes);

(2) Extra copies of documents (but only if the sole reason such copies are preserved is for convenience of reference); and 

  (3) Stocks of publications and of processed documents. (Each agency shall create and maintain serial or record sets of its publications and processed documents, as evidence of agency activities and for the information they contain, including annual reports, brochures, pamphlets, books, handbooks, posters, and maps.) 

The non-record status of extra copies of documents deserves some explanation. The critical factor is whether the document has been retained only for convenience of reference. For example, a non-record may be a copy of a letter that is retained for use as a guide for preparing similar letters. Another example may be a copy of a policy memorandum that an employee maintains in his or her office for convenient access and ease of reference. 

Employees who wish to dispose of non-record copies must first review those copies to ensure that they are non-records and do not contain any unique and significant data or annotation. If the employees believe that they have extra copies, they should take any necessary steps to assure themselves that they are in fact extra copies, prior to disposal. When in doubt about the status of a document, employees should not dispose of it. 

Once the copies of a document are determined to be non-record (extra) copies, employees may dispose of them accordingly. They may also dispose of all other materials that do not meet the definition of a record, provided the materials are no longer needed for official purposes of the agency. 

Employees are reminded of the court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entitled "Order Regarding Interior Department IIM Records Retention." The Order requires the Department to retain all documents and data relating to Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust funds and Individual Indian trust assets, as defined in Attachment A of the Order. However, the court order specifically states that it is not intended "to prevent the disposal of . . . materials which are not records as defined in 44 U.S.C § 3301." If you are unsure if a document is a non-record subject to the instructions in the court order, please review the court order and the attachment and consult with your supervisor.

Supervisors must ensure that their employees and others who may handle Federal records (including contractors, interns, students, and volunteers) understand and comply with these procedures, and will be held accountable along with employees for compliance. For further information, please contact your bureau or office records officer.

For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy
and Directives Management, at Krista_Bibb@fws.gov 
Return to the Memoranda Index Page

Visit the Division of PDM Directives Home Page
Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page