Call for Clarity on Forest Service Film/Photo Policy
This week, the National Forest Service came under intense scrutiny for a set of guidelines they were in the process of finalizing around who needs to secure (and pay for) special permits to take commercial photos and videos in wilderness areas. A lack of clarity in the federal guidelines left many journalists, professional and amateur photographers, guidebook authors, nonprofits and hikers wondering if the Forest Service guidelines could, or should, be applied to them.
This week, the National Forest Service came under intense scrutiny for a set of guidelines they were in the process of finalizing around who needs to secure (and pay for) special permits to take commercial photos and videos in wilderness areas.
A lack of clarity in the federal guidelines left many journalists, professional and amateur photographers, guidebook authors, nonprofits and hikers wondering if the Forest Service guidelines could, or should, be applied to them.
Take only pictures, leave only footprints
In reaction to the concerns, the Forest Service issued a statement late today trying to answer some of those questions. They've also delayed finalizing the rules by a month to give the public more time to weigh in. (Find out how to weigh in below.)
The statement seems to confirm that the Forest Service's directive about commercial filming in wilderness was intended as a way to protect wilderness lands from being impacted or altered by large production crews or equipment.
“The fact is, the directive pertains to commercial photography and filming only -– if you’re there to gather news or take recreational photographs, no permit would be required. We take your First Amendment rights very seriously,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We’re looking forward to talking with journalists and concerned citizens to help allay some of the concerns we’ve been hearing and clarify what’s covered by this proposed directive.”
However, what constitutes commercial filming or photography in the proposed directive is still far from clear; there's a lot of gray area between a Hollywood production and a photographer for a hiking guidebook.
Take action: call for more clarity
Photography and film, including the photographs individuals gather and share within the Washington Trails Association community, have tremendous power to inspire people to visit wild lands. That exploration, in turn, inspires a desire to protect our wild places.
Want to weigh in? Make sure your voice is heard by Dec. 3:
Have a great photo from one of Washington's 31 wilderness areas?
Follow the story
- Read The Seattle Times story.
- Learn more about the story from Rob Davis (@robwdavis), a reporter for The Oregonian who has been reporting on the issue.
- Read the latest from Zach Urness, the outdoors reporter at The Statesman Journal.
I submitted a formal comment. Thanks for the link. Here was my opinion and what I submitted: Let me start by saying I am an avid hiker and amateur photographer. I love this state and all it encompasses. I moved here from Arizona in 2006 and feel it has been the best choice of my life. I want to protect these lands and forests. I am FOR regulation on forest lands... to a certain extent. I agree with disallowing the use of drones, I believe that it would take away from the nature we set out to explore. I agree with disallowing large production groups from filming and potentially destroying the land. However, I DO NOT think it would be fair to take away a right as a photographer, whether for commercial purposes or not, to take photos wherever they would like. No photographer will do enough damage to warrant any kind of license, not anymore than a regular hiker. I do not personally gain from taking photos, but I have had people tell me I should submit them or start my own company. There is too much gray area for simply taking a photo. What if at the time you take it, it is not for profit, but then it gets discovered or you decide to pursue a financial gain in some way. It is taking away rights as a citizen. Simply taking a photo needs a license? I don't think so. The camera is silent, does not hurt anyone, and most photographers are more observant and careful of their surroundings then normal. For, the nature IS their art. Please do not criminalize a pasttime. It would be a travesty and a blow to hikers and nature lovers statewide. It would be a clear violation of our amendments, and we the people will not stand for it.
TRohn on Sep 25, 2014 11:22 PM
Photography helps public lands and needs to be encouraged
People don't appreciate, protect, or preserve things that they don't know exist. Commercial and non-commercial photographers are important to the process of spreading awareness about public lands and the wildlife that depend on these lands. Please don't put a financial burden on struggling photographers. Permits and declarations of intent are one way to monitor what's being done, to ensure the wilderness isn't harmed, but charging fees will not help public awareness of these lands.
HikingSomewhere on Sep 26, 2014 10:05 PM