Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Proposed Administrative Rule: Take a Nature Photo, Pay a Fine.

The U.S. Forest Service has published a proposed rule requiring members of the press to obtain a $1,500 permit to take photographs in national forests or risk a fine of $1,000 for each photo taken. The Forest Service claims that the rule is required in order to carry out the mandate of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain. It's hard to imagine how sharing, or even selling, photographs of natural environment exposes the environment to exploitation. Not to mention, what would happen in the event of a news story such as a forest fire or a fugitive on the run or even forest service mismanagement of the land.  This sounds like infringement on freedom of the press, and I am not seeing the requisite compelling governmental interest.

According to this NPR story, the head of the Forestry Service says that the agency exercises its discretion to distinguish between real news coverage and commercial activity.

Depending where you're at in the country, whether you're a reporter, a journalist or a commercial filmmaker, when you would ask to be able to do your activity, you'd get a different answer.

That sounds to me like the opposite of how an administrative rule is supposed to work.  The rule should limit an administrator's discretion so that it applies across the board without being tainted by favoritism or abuse.

The comment period runs until Nov. 4, 2012.

The following pictures were taken in National Forests.

White River National Forest.

Bridger-Teton National Forest. 
source: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/regions/intermountain/ 

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