(UPDATED at 8:15 p.m. MDT, September 25, 2014)
The Oregonian received some additional information from the U.S. Forest Service late today about the requirements of permits for photography in a wilderness area:
Tidwell’s statement said he was attempting to “clarify the agency’s intentions” and would not require a permit for news-gathering or recreational photographs in wilderness areas. Tidwell didn’t explain why others in his agency told The Oregonian the opposite just two days earlier.
On Tuesday, Liz Close, the agency’s acting wilderness director, said the Forest Service would permit reporting in wilderness depending on its subject matter, with exceptions for breaking news. “If you were engaged on reporting that was in support of wilderness characteristics, that would be permitted,” Close said.
The proposed rule states several times that permits are required for “still photography and commercial filming”. It does not specify that still photography for non-commercial uses does not require a permit.
The application for a permit for photography can be denied if a USFS official decides that there is a “suitable location outside of a wilderness area”. It can also be denied if a Forest Service official decides that the project does not have “a primary objective of dissemination of information about the use and enjoyment of wilderness or its ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value”. That is a lot of subjective criteria to put in the hands of a Forest Service employee.
I conducted some additional research, and found that all of the details about this rule are to be found, not in the Federal Register, but in various USFS manuals, which then refer you to another manual, which then says, for example, the price of the photography permit fees are to be determined by each individual National Forest. So, it’s very confusing and time consuming to attempt to find out what the rules really are. There are 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. Navigating that jungle of bureaucracy could be a full time job.
Radio traffic for emergency management has transitioned from codes, like the the 10-codes (10-4, 10-22, 10-97) to clear text — actually using your words — that can be easily understood, without needing a translator if you are not versed in that particular version of jargon.
The U.S. Forest Service needs to write their rules in clear text.
(UPDATED at 3:05 p.m. MDT, September 25, 2014)
The Oregonian, which broke this story, reported today that the U.S. Forest Service is going to extend the comment period for the rule restricting photography in wilderness areas:
Amid growing public outcry, the U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday it will delay finalizing restrictive rules requiring media to get special permits to shoot photos or videos in wilderness areas.
The federal agency will allow public comment for an additional month, until Dec. 3, Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said, and set up meetings to answer questions from journalists, wilderness groups and the public…
(Originally published at 2:56 p.m. MDT, September 24, 2014)
According to OregonLive, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing a new rule that would require reporters to apply for, and if approved, buy a permit to take photos in a wilderness area.
The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.
Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.
Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.
First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they’d allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories…
Like the article says, the lines between reporters and an individual with an iPhone are blurry these days. What if a hiker sees something shocking about how the Forest Service is managing a wilderness area and submits a photo to a newspaper which then publishes it? Could they be breaking the law if they don’t buy a permit to take the photo? Does this give the USFS too much power to control what the public knows about how their lands are being managed? It will be up to the local Forest Supervisor to decide on a case by case basis if the permit should be issued.
Are we going to have to edit the age old advice of, “Take only photos; leave only footprints”, adding an asterisk:
*However, if you are a “reporter” in a U.S. Forest Service wilderness area be sure to apply for and, if approved, buy a permit costing up to $1,500 to take a photograph.
You can read the Forest Service’s proposal here. At the top-right on that page you can click on “Submit a formal comment” if you have an opinion on the topic. You have until November 3, 2014 to tell the Forest Service what you think.
We are giving this our lame-ass ideas tag.