After a few days of news articles, including ADAPT’s, where the U.S. Forest Service’s new media policy was taken in a negative light, the USFS has decided to clear up a few points. The Forest Service has now made it clear that the new policy on wilderness photography and filming won’t apply to journalists or visitors taking snapshots for their own use.
The update came from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who said that the agency is committed to the First Amendment.
“To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities,” Tidwell said. He then went on to describe the agency’s effort to standardize permitting and to ensure that the public gets fair value for commercial activities in wilderness areas.
Tidwell went on to clarify that the policy will not apply to the public and news journalists, but if a project falls outside of that scope and the filming is intended to be on wilderness land, additional criteria are applied to protect wilderness values. In that case, a permit must be applied for and granted before any photography is permitted.
“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,” Tidwell said. “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.”
This confirms that the proposal does not change the rules for visitors or recreational photographers. Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs.
Currently, commercial filming permit fees range around $30 per day for a group up to three people. A large Hollywood production with 70 or more people might be as much as $800. The $1,500 commercial permit fee cited in many publications is erroneous, and refers to a different proposed directive.
So that’s great news for most people, who can continue to enjoy taking wilderness photos freely. As well as this, the much needed income generated from these commercial activities are vital for the continued maintenance of and free access to these beautiful areas. It looks like a win win for everyone!