Taking photos from your phone now poses a serious risk to your pocket book.
Under the measure, still photography and commercial filming in Congress-designated wilderness areas would require a permit, and shoots would also have to be approved and meet certain criteria like not advertising any product or service and being educational.
These policies would require journalists to apply for a $1500 permit to photograph the 36 million acres of designated wilderness area administered by the USFS, reports Oregon Live.
These new rules would also make it illegal for independent photographers to take photos or shoot video (even with a camera phone) and would result in a fine of $1000 per shot. This even includes family vacation pictures! If you uploaded 10 photos to Facebook from a family vacation the government then fines you $10,000.
Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement the directive has been in place for more than four years and “is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild places.”
Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.
Close 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.
She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.
“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”
Exploiting public lands with a camera? Really?
The Forest Service’s previous rules caused a fuss in 2010, when the agency refused to allow an Idaho Public Television crew into a wilderness area to film student conservation workers. The agency ultimately caved to pressure from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.
Critics have characterized the rules as too vague and say it infringes on the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
“I am very concerned about the implications this has for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press,” U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell.
“It is also very troubling that journalists could be held to different standards at the discretion of the issuing officer depending on the content of their stories and its relevance to wilderness activity.”
Walden said he worried access might be granted “based on political calculations” and noted a majority of Oregon land is controlled by the federal government.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also voiced concern for the policy.
“The Forest Service needs to rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a burdensome permitting process for something as simple as taking a picture with a cell phone,” he told Oregon Live.
“Especially where reporters and bloggers are concerned, this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment.”
Most of the country’s wilderness is in the West. Nearly 50 wilderness areas have been designated in Oregon, including wide stretches of land around Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Washington.
The rules allow exceptions only for breaking news coverage of events like fires and rescues. They’re more stringent than similar policies on wilderness areas managed by a different federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management.
The BLM does not require any special permit for newsgathering in wilderness areas.
The Forest Service is currently accepting public comment on its proposal.
Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.