Claim: The U.S. Forest Service is proposing new rules that would require permits for commercial filming and photography in federally designated wilderness areas.
Example: [Collected via E-mail, September 2014]
Origins: On 25 September 2014, a new rule proposed by the U.S. Forest Service pertaining to photography and film permits sparked internet outrage. According to circulating posts about the issue, the agency would like to charge fees of up to $1,500 before
The U.S. Forest Service manages public forests, grasslands, and wilderness throughout the United States. It administers areas ranging from boat ramps in Indiana to a volcano observatory in Washington to campsites in New Hampsire, and the proposed regulations would affect over 200 million acres under Forest Service jurisdiction.
Liz Close, acting director of the U.S. Forest Service, said that the tightened restrictions have been informally practiced for the past four years. Close indicates that they fall under the auspices of the larger Wilderness Act of 1964, and that the agency aims to protect the country's forests from commercial exploitation:
Advocates for the First Amendment, however, objected on the grounds that such fines and permit requirements would infringe upon specific constitutional protections concerning free speech. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said that new media outlets and independent journalists would be disproportionately impacted by the proposed fines:
Close was unable to reference any specific situations for which such restrictions might be necessary but said that the goal was to follow the existing law when it comes to photographing U.S. forests:
Legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Gregg Leslie, said that the U.S. Forest Service restrictions constituted a clear violation of the First Amendment. Leslie does not believe the move is legally justified:
After the announcement of the proposal caused controversy among media representatives, the head of the U.S. Forest Service hastened to state that the rule would not be applied to reporters and news organizations:
The rule would apply to commercial filming, like a movie production, but reporters and news organizations would not need to get a permit to shoot video or photographs in the nation's wilderness areas, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said.
The USFS is currently accepting comments on the issue here. The period of public comment will be open until 3 November 2014.
Last updated: 26 September 2014