The U.S. Forest Service to Charge Photographers for Wilderness Shots


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September 26, 2014

(Thanks to Felton A. Lighty III for sending this article)

The U.S. Forest Service is looking to cement regulations on the media’s right to take photos and shoot video on federally designated wilderness land. A new rule that is set to be finalized later this year would require any reporter, photographer, or videographer on the 36 million acres of wilderness the agency oversees to get a permit, lest they face a fine.

Forest Service spokesperson Larry Chambers told the Oregonian that permits will cost up to $1,500, and those caught so much as taking an iPhone photo without clearance will be fined $1,000. Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, told the Oregonian that the restrictions are following the Wilderness Act of 1964, which is meant to preserve the untamed character of the wilderness and prevent it from being used for commercial gain.

The Forest Service says it would allow media to take photos without permits for certain kinds of breaking news.      Photo: daveynin/Flickr

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Alexandria, Virginia, told the Oregonian that what the Forest Service is doing is unconstitutional. “They would have to show an important need to justify these limits, and they just can’t,” he said.

Temporary rules have been been in place since 2010, when the Forest Service denied an Idaho Public Television crew into a wilderness area to film student conservation workers. The reasoning was that the show sold DVDs of its episodes, but when the governor of Idaho stepped in, the Forest Service agreed to allow it. Close told the Oregonian that she didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the past four years.

The Forest Service would make exceptions for breaking news that “arises suddenly, evolves quickly, and rapidly ceases to be newsworthy.”

Beyond the media, the rule would apply to anyone who might use the photos or video to make money while in a wilderness area, be it a documentary film crew, nonprofit, or private citizen.

Photo: Loren Kerns/Flickr

After vocal public outcry, the Forest Service opted to delay implementation of the rule from November to December to allow more time for public comment.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, told the International Business Times that the organization will be putting the government on notice: “If they go ahead and persist in doing this, we will probably challenge them in court.”

What’s your though on this article?  Archaic/Draconian or does the Service just require additional needed funds to run these forests?  Leave your comments below…

About Jeff Riegel, Editor

As a Senior Producer/Editor for a government contractor in Northern Virginia, Jeff assisted in the creation of their media department from the ground up. Prior to that, he was a Senior Video Production Specialist and Team Lead for the Department of Defense with more than ten years of consistent production, editing, video and audio recording experience. Jeff specializes in identifying, developing and supporting new trends in visual media technology and other solutions. Outside of the workplace, Jeff created a long-form documentary about the rise of a local boxer, Tori Nelson, to 13-time world champion status across 4 weight classes. It aired nationally via the Sports Channel For Women and screened at The Alexandria Film Festival and Texas Black Film Festival. Jeff is co-producing "The Lost Clipper," a two-decades documentary about the first hijacking in U.S. history and the search for those 15 lost souls taken in 1938. Filming takes him to Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, Canada, and locations across the U.S. He enjoys creating a media-marketing social networking campaign for entities such as CapitalTristate Electrical Distributors and "The Lost Clipper" and personalities such as world boxing champion Tori Nelson, Netflix's "Narcos" personalities Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, and renowned landscape photographer Frank Lee Ruggles. Solving complex technical problems by utilizing a myriad of advanced audio-video hardware and software applications along with initiative and ingenuity, Jeff is eager to attack any project head-on. Jeff's Motto: think beyond convention...and consider it done!

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