The U.S. Forest Service Wants to Fine You $1,000 for Taking Pictures in the Forest

Discussion in 'Bill of Rights' started by CATO, Sep 25, 2014.

  1. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    I kept looking at the URL from the Esquire story. . . thinking this must be the Onion. This govt. is out of control . . . for every law created, there's some out-of-touch douche who wants to limit other people's behavior because they don't like it or want to make tax revenue from it. Too much leisure time in this country, which greatly benefit the losers, sickos, and politicians.

    7 things you should know about the Forest Service's media restrictions in wilderness |

    The U.S. Forest Service Wants to Fine You $1,000 for Taking Pictures in the Forest - Esquire

    The U.S. Forest Service Wants to Fine You $1,000 for Taking Pictures in the Forest
    The Forest Service oversees 193 million acres of wilderness. In a month, you won't be able to take a picture in them without getting a fine -- even if the new rules are unconstitutional.
    By Eric Vilas-Boas on September 24, 2014

    Ascent Xmedia/Taxi/Getty Images

    Nice photo. That'll be $1,000, please.

    This week's most profoundly wrongheaded display of nonviolent press infringement comes from an unlikely source: The U.S. Forest Service. New rules being finalized in November state that—across this country's gloriously beautiful, endlessly photogenic, 193 million acres of designated wilderness area administered by the USFS—members of the press who happen upon it will need permits to photograph or shoot video.

    And yes, it does sound like one of the dumbest things you've ever read.

    "It's pretty clearly unconstitutional," said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Alexandria, Va. "They would have to show an important need to justify these limits, and they just can't."

    Wait! It gets better.

    [Liz Close, the Forest Service's acting wilderness director] didn't cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it's addressing. She didn't know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

    The slap you just heard was of more than 34 million American hikers hitting palm to forehead. And the clicks you heard came from nature photographers from coast to coast ignoring those new rules.

    Maybe outrage shouldn't be your first reaction. Maybe it's good for the forests. You won't have news crews traipsing about, trampling leaves. You won't get as frustrated as you might otherwise have been when you pass some dude with a camera on a trail. Maybe we'd all be better off, even.


    The Organic Act of 1897, the legislation that kicked off, in a big way, the establishment of the modern U.S. Forest Service, clearly provides (emphasis added):

    The jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, over persons within such reservations shall not be affected or changed by reason of the existence of such reservations, except so far as the punishment of offenses against the United States therein is concerned; the intent and meaning of this provision being that the State wherein any such reservation is situated shall not, by reason of the establishment thereof, lose its jurisdiction, nor the inhabitants thereof their rights and privileges as citizens, or be absolved from their duties as citizens of the State.

    For any journalist, both parts of that statement are very important. All U.S. citizens enjoy the right of the First Amendment, and courts have very clearly upheld the rights of a citizen to take photographs taken in a public place—even the unpopular ones, and even ugly, boring ones of trees and mountains.

    And as for "duties as citizens of the State." Well, it's called the Fourth Estate for a reason. That's what the U.S. Forest Service is hurting here: The understanding that the public has a right to this land, and right to know about it, with media more expressive than words.

    With this:

    A hiker takes the trail approaching Minaret Lake, getting a great view of Reigelhuth Minaret - Sierra Nevada.

    John Mock/Getty Images

    Close, of the Forest Service, doesn't seem to agree.

    She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.
    "That's kind of a distortion," says Peter Essick, an award-winning National Geographic photographer who has worked with the Forest Service before, as well as the other agencies that oversee American wildernesses for years to produce truly remarkable work.

    "When the Wilderness Act was created in 1964, there were plenty of people doing photography," he says. "Nothing in the Wilderness Act says photography is not approved or banned."

    When he goes out to shoot, Essick takes the utmost care to the follow the rules of "leave no trace," and he does it with 65 pounds of gear on his back. He's a nature photographer: Not trashing the place is pretty much rule number one.

    There's another layer to this, too. The USFS and the other agencies have used photography since their inception to tell the story of the wilderness. All the words in the world can't show you as much as one beautiful Ansel Adams photo. Coincidentally, Essick spent lots of time photographing the Ansel Adams Wilderness, named for the famous photographer, for his own book.

    Over and over again, the establishment of an American wilderness, the National Parks, the core idea that you can escape to a more primitive, but nonetheless essential part of this country, has been referred to as America's best idea. It's why city-dwelling, suburb-raised punks like me can have so many feelings toward land that has filled our lungs with fresh air and our hearts with wonder. It's why I swell with pride when my little sister, gritting her teeth through cuts and tears, finished her first hike. It's why I look forward to enjoying it with my children when they come along.

    That feeling needs to stick around.

    And, believe me, I get it. No one wants annoying reporters or photographers damaging the environment, even if "breaking news" is happening. (This is the only case in which this rule wouldn't apply—and it happens to be entirely unenforceable.)

    Wilderness areas have it bad enough already. The United States pumps "on the order of nearly 60 million 'short tons'" of carbon monoxide into the air every year, the EPA tells us. We dump 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage stormwater, and industrial waste into the water that—eventually—is supposed to make it back to your faucet, your hot shower, the water bottle you give your kid on his hike. And no one likes seeing headlines like "Sequoia National Park is Stuck in Pollution Hell" or "Where the Smog Ends Up."

    But do the good people running the USFS really think that charging a journalist $1,500 for a permit—and a fine of $1,000 per shot to those who don't get one—is going to aid that cause? Do they think adding a roadblock to the essential act of newsgathering and to the creation of free publicity for the forests is a wise decision?

    Ritter range, Ansel Adams Wilderness

    Steve Dunleavy/Getty Images

    It infringes upon the First Amendment. There's no reasonable way to enforce it. The U.S. Forest Service have failed to cite real-life examples of why it's needed. Above all, the spirit of the rules would limit our understanding of these beautiful spaces with which we're supposed to co-exist.

    Today the Forest Service tweeted this video. It's beautiful: a PSA specifically meant to connect tweens to nature, "ultimately creating a lifelong interest in spending time outdoors." Who knows if AdCouncil, which produced it, paid $1,500 for a permit, but that money would prevent a lot of people from doing so.

    Have you seen a Light Show on a National Forest? Take a peek! Discover the Forest - Forest Light Show :30 - YouTube

    — USDA Forest Service (@forestservice) September 24, 2014
    "There would be less photography done," Essick says. "I can't see that as something that would help the wilderness."

    To their credit, the Forest Service has opened themselves up to comment. Call them out, and post some photos on Instagram and Twitter while you're at it.

    UPDATE: Environment reporter Rob Davis of the Oregonian has a great breakdown of the implications of this here.
    tulianr likes this.
  2. nkawtg

    nkawtg Monkey+++

    Really dumb.
    What would they have done with Ansel Adams today?

    Or John Muir
    D2wing and tacmotusn like this.
  3. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    The back packer's creeed "leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos"...... Now they want to steal that from us. N0.
    tacmotusn likes this.
  4. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    This is nothing more than another means of generating revenue for the .gov. The gov goons sit around in their think tanks trying to drum up ideas to steal the people's hard earned dollar's!! :mad:
  5. nkawtg

    nkawtg Monkey+++

    Remember last year when the govt. shut down and they closed the parks?
    They actually had people stopped from taking pictures of parkland from the side of the highway.
  6. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    This will NOT sit well in Alaska.... We have the Tongass National Forest (the biggest National Forest in the Nation) all around us, here in Southeastern Alaska, and if I have to get a Permit, that costs $1500US per year, just to take pictures, the Fool that tries to collect, is going to be looking down the wrong end of my Winchester 1300 12Ga. Pump Action Shotgun.... This blatantly a violation of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, on its FACE, and wouldn't get past the first Federal Court Judge, considering the SCOTUS Precedents, already set in stone. Some USFS Idiot, is bound to lose his JOB over this one... Kind of one of those "To Stupid to be Employed" things.... I have already sent off eMails to my Federal Congressional Delegation.... It even made the local Liberal RAG, this morning, on the Editorial Page, firmly calling it into Question....
  7. AmericanRedoubt1776

    AmericanRedoubt1776 American Redoubt: Idaho-Montana-Wyoming Site Supporter+

    I too thought it had to be The Onion. To weird to be true. Scary .gov
  8. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    This isn't about revenue - it about trying to stop photos of the horrific state of many of out National parks from an utter lack of maintenance, abuse and overuse.

    I've gone to some parks, and asked the Ranger - "What the hell are you doing with your budget? Because you sure as He77 aren't spending it on upkeep...." Only to find the chief ranger has some pet project or another that sucked all the oxygen out of the area....

    State run Parks are even worse for this ind of crap.
    ditch witch and Cruisin Sloth like this.
  9. Gopherman

    Gopherman Sometimes I Wish I Could Go Back to Sleep

    Agenda 21
  10. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    I was going to say words cannot describe how I feel about this.

    But they can.
    I just can't type them without getting into trouble. maddd
    Brokor, Yard Dart and oldawg like this.
  11. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    Yup. I may already get a vacation for another post but I won't even "greekify" what I would like to say in regards to this...situation.
    NotSoSneaky likes this.
  12. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    Interesting... It doesn't appear to affect non-journalists... we can take pictures... The Press gets fined...
    kellory likes this.
  13. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Any commercial nature, is what I'm reading. So you could never sell your photos.
  14. nkawtg

    nkawtg Monkey+++

    I heard they're backing down on this reg.
    Don't remember where I saw that though
  15. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    The only backing down I've seen is in their clarification (link below) where, as BTPost mentioned, it is for commercial ventures only (excluding news).

    Forest Service clarifies proposed picture fines - ABC15 Arizona

    ETA: I am not defending this in the least. This is patently unconstitutional on its face and should be crushed and the people pushing it fired!
  16. Byte

    Byte Monkey+++

    The people pushing this should be publicly ridiculed and humiliated.
  17. oldawg

    oldawg Monkey+++

    We already do that. It seems to be lost on them. Tar and feathers on the other hand..................
    Brokor likes this.
  18. Byte

    Byte Monkey+++

    They aren't publicly humiliated though. They aren't laughed at and ridiculed on street corners and in places of business that they frequent. What's said about them across the interwebs isn't "in public"; each of the 'net places where they are derided only cater to a very small subset of the population so isn't seen by passersby. They and their children aren't embarrassed to be seen & known. In fact, people like this are generally praised and held upright as good people in the public eye. They are relatively anonymous even if we the people have lists containing their names. Yes taring and feathering is a public humiliation along the lines I was thinking. Hell, just laughing and jeering at them in person would be a start. Yet, I don't see people doing it.

    I personally don't interact with federated people at all if I can help it. Last time I saw a forest service employee she was sitting on a quad at the side of the road trying to waive me to a stop, I slowed down, smiled, gave a wave and kept on driving. The look on her face was priceless. Judging by the look on the face of the man in the green uniform standing beside her, he got a laugh too.
  19. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    From: Liberty
    To: Govt
    Message: [finger]

    9 Things You Need To Know About National Park Photography Rules
    Are your photos legal? Do you need a permit? We talked to lawyers and rangers to get the real scoop on national park photography rules.
    by Mattie Schuler

    Make sure you know the rules before taking photos in national parks (or other public lands). Photo by Anita Ritenour / Flickr

    Picture this: You’re in Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, one of the most scenic places in the US, and of course, you’re snapping some pictures. Who wouldn’t be? You don’t even have a tripod—just yourself and two friends with DSLR’s and telephoto lenses. A ranger starts following you, chasing you down, asking why and what you’re taking pictures of.

    “What am I taking pictures of? Look around!”

    Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. Photo by Ryan Mitchell / Flickr

    In 2013, this happened to Ian Shive, a Los Angeles-based nature and conservation photographer. Sure, Shive is a professional, but that day he was just doing what he loves—exploring the outdoors and capturing nature. Did he need a permit?

    The answer can be pretty confusing. To clarify, we spoke with attorney Carolyn Wright (, who specializes in photography law, and Lee Dickinson, a park service employee who worked on the Department of Interior (DOI) regulations for commercial filming and still photography. (Reminder: the DOI includes the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Services). Read on for the major points that you need to know about national park photography rules.

    1. Most still photography doesn’t need a permit
    According to Dickinson, a photographer will need a permit if the activity involves a model, set, or prop (see below for more on that), is in a closed area, or if the activity needs to be monitored by an agency. “If the photographer is mirroring what most visitors do,” says Dickinson, “in all likelihood they’re okay without a permit. They just have to obey the same rules as the visitors.”

    2. Tripods are allowed.
    Just the act of using a tripod (or large lenses or time-lapse accessories) doesn’t by itself mean you need a permit—these accessories don’t count as props in most situations. According to Dickinson, “Generally, additional equipment does not trigger the need for a permit. It is the eventual use of the film that triggers the permit requirements.”

    3. You need a permit to use “props” or “sets.”
    Props and sets include any items constructed or placed on the land for filming or photography, such as backdrops, generators, microphones, stages, lighting banks, camera trackers, etc. As stated in Public Law 106-206, “sets and props also include trained animals and inanimate objects, such as camping equipment, campfires, wagons, and so forth, when used to stage a specific scene.”

    4. You need a permit to use a model.
    A model is a person or object that serves as the subject of filming or still photography for the purpose to promoting the sales or use of a product or service; this can include people, animals, and inanimate objects (such as clothing, food, or beverage). For example, if a solo photographer is on public lands to shoot a solo model’s clothing, that is considered commercial photography, and she’d need a permit.

    5. All commercial filming needs a permit.
    Commercial filming, according to the law, is recording of a moving image for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Commercial filming activities may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.
    Personal filming is allowed—if you are simply filming from your campsite using a time lapse or whatever other tool you decide, you do not need a permit if you do not intend to sell that film or use it in any commercial way.

    6. If you do need a permit, request early.
    “The earlier the better, though the NPS does not accept applications further out than one year,” Dickinson says, who notes that applications are on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the agency will work with you if someone else has already requested the area you want on the same date. Permits can range from $50 a day for a small still photography shoot to $750 a day for a large film shoot.

    If you are looking to have your wedding, engagement, or other special occasion photos done in a park, Dickinson recommends checking with the park itself in regards to a permit. Some parks get so many requests that scheduling comes into play, and the location of the request would also matter in deciding if a permit is required.

    7. Wilderness areas have their own rules.
    In Wilderness Areas, the normal regulations still apply, but so does the Wilderness Act. The act restricts the amount of commercial activity in a wilderness area, so if you want to film or shoot here commercially, there will be an additional level of review that goes along with a request for a permit.

    8. Unfortunately, the rules are subject to interpretation (this means the .gov can screw you any time they want)
    “We try to ensure that our parks and areas apply the regulations in as constant a fashion as possible,” Dickinson says. However, interpretations can vary. Wright, the lawyer, recommends taking along a copy of the applicable rules, just in case you get stopped by a ranger. “Many rangers will see a large lens or tripod and assume that your video recording or photography is for commercial purposes,” says Wright. If a ranger does give you a fine, you have the right to file an appeal. If you’re in a situation where you do need a permit and don’t have one, there is a possibility of a warning or a ticket (up to $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail in most national parks, in the worst cases).

    9. It’s OK to sell us your photos.
    Maybe you get lucky and end up getting a photo printed in BACKPACKER. Do you need a permit then? Dickinson says no. “Generally, a photo that runs in Backpacker would not have required a permit to shoot unless it involved a model, set, or prop,” she says. The same applies to someone who makes their own greeting cards with photos from public lands or other similar hobbies. “The permit requirement for still photography is based on the activity that is taking place on federal lands, as opposed to what is going to be done with the photo once it is complete.”

    Bottom line
    Nothing in these rules is absolute. As Dickinson says, “there is some latitude on the part of the park in enforcing regulation.” But in general, you do not need a permit for still photography or personal filming; you do need a permit for commercial filming and still photography that uses models, props, or sets. If you are still concerned or confused, call your local agency before you head out.

    9 Things You Need To Know About National Park Photo Rules
  20. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    That's it, the morons have to go!! [beat]
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