US Forest Service may require photography permits for journalists in wilderness areas

A sign posted by the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management indicates the start of public land north of Ingomar, Montana. - © M. Scott Brauer
A BLM sign marks the edge of public land north of Ingomar, Montana. – © M. Scott Brauer

UPDATE (25 Sept. 2014): The US Forest Service has extended the comment period and delayed the rules regarding photography permits amid growing public outcry.

Original post: The US Forest Service seems to have taken a page from so-called Ag-Gag laws around the country; rules will be finalized this November requiring reporters to apply and pay for a permit to shoot video or photos in designated federal wilderness areas. According to this OregonLive report, permits may cost up to $1,500, though, oddly, the penalty for taking photos without a permit will only go up to $1,000. The acting director of the US Forest Service told OregonLive that the policies, which have been “temporarily” in place for 4 years, are part of the organizations efforts to protect wilderness areas from being commercially exploited as designated under the Wilderness Act of 1964.

The International Business Times also has coverage of the proposed rules, including thoughts from NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher. I join with Osterreicher and other free press advocates in thinking that these rules are a substantial restriction on constitutional rights and should be abandoned. While I can understand a need to regulate, for instance, large-scale film crews using federal land for Hollywood productions, it’s ridiculous to require journalists to apply and pay for permission to take pictures on wilderness land.

The Bureau of Land Management, some of whose land appears in my photograph above, does not require permits for photography.

You can comment on the proposed rules regarding permits for stills and video until November 3, 2014.

Related: A Kitsap Sun reporter had odd restrictions placed on him while covering efforts to save a historic building in Olympic National Park. He was prevented from speaking to people involved in the story, held back from the scene, and otherwise hassled during what should have been a pretty straightforward and non-confrontational reporting assignment. You can read Tristan Baurick’s final piece on the effort here.

(via friends on facebook)

Comments are closed.