As beautiful fall colors saturate forests across the nation, a battle is brewing.
Amid public outcry, the U.S. Forest Service is finalizing restrictive rules requiring the media to get special permits to shoot photos or videos in wilderness areas.
Permits would cost up to $1,500, even if the photo or video is taken with a mobile phone. Fines for photography without a permit could be as high as $1,000.
Under the new rules, still photography and commercial filming would need approval and must meet criteria like no product advertisement photos and the pictures or video must be educational.
Critics say the rules are too vague and infringe on the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
U.S. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden told the Oregonian, “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. This policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment.”
The Forest Service was accepting public comment on the measure until November 3. However, today they addressed the issue on Facebook and extended the deadline by a month:
In regards to recent media coverage, the Forest Service proposed directive on commercial filming in Wilderness has been in place for more than 4 years and is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild places. To ensure that all members of the public who have an interest in wilderness access have the opportunity to be heard, we are extending the comment period on the proposed directive to Dec. 3, 2014. In the coming weeks the Forest Service will be setting up public meetings to answer questions from the public, including journalists and members of wilderness groups.