Forest Service clarifies its photography rules
October 3, 2014
The U.S. Forest Service has released a statement to clarify a directive for commercial photography and filmmaking in congressionally designated wilderness areas.
Recently, vague language in the directive sparked fears that it would restrict reporters and other professionals from taking photos on federal land, but the Forest Service asserts that's not the case.
"The U.S. Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "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."
According to Larry Chambers, of the National Press Office for the Forest Service, the goal is to protect wilderness from the impacts of large-scale filming and photography.
“There’s something magical about the Maroon Bells. The sunset picture feels like a real accomplishment.”
Michael Broughton, photographer
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The interim directive has been in place for several years and applies only to the relatively small percentage of national forest protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964, such as the Flat Tops, Holy Cross and Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness areas, which are largely roadless and subject to special protection.
Permits for film productions, advertising photo shoots and other large commercial ventures in the Flat Tops and Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness areas could run anywhere from $30 to $800 per day depending on the scope of the operation. Most professional and amateur photographers will not need permits unless they use models, actors or props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs.
The Forest Service has extended the public comment period for the directive until Dec. 3 and is working to improve some of the imprecise sections.
"We're going to try to make sure that the language is a little bit more acceptable to folks," Chambers said.