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Public Lands

Forest Service aims to restrict photography/filming in Wilderness Areas

Feds want to enforce Wilderness Act rules banning commercial photography in the protected zones, including media, outdoor brands and guides.


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Woof! It’s been a rough week for outdoor photography at the hands of federal officials.

Earlier this week it was announced that the National Park Service had fined a group of climbers $4,000 after spotting them in a 2011 Patagonia catalog photo making an illegal climb in Capitol Reef National Park.

Separately, news broke Wednesday that federal officials want to enforce Wilderness Act rules that prohibit most filming and photography in the protected zones, especially for commercial purposes. That would include restricting newspapers, magazines, professional photographers, retailers, outdoor brands and guide services from shooting or using any images from wilderness areas in their marketing. Media outlets would even be required to pay to obtain a special permit for any breaking news — to which several news groups have called a probable violation of the First Amendment.

“The Forest Service proposed directive on commercial filming in Wilderness has been in place for more than four years and is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild places,” federal officials said in a statement. The latest push for the rules are meant to make the law more uniform among all commercial enterprises, no matter if it’s a car company or rafting guide service.

Already, several lawmakers in Oregon (where the Statesman Journal broke the story) have decried the law.

“This proposed rule is vague and could have a major impact on the way the media captures, documents, and promotes our public lands,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). “What does the Forest Service plan to do next — monitor Instagram accounts and fine users that post pictures of our wilderness areas? In the coming days, I will organize and send the Forest Service a bipartisan letter telling them the current rule is unacceptable and that it needs to be fixed. Members of the press should be allowed to access and photograph these public lands, without a dictate on how they use the footage from bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

Forest Service officials are extending the comment period on the proposed directive to Dec. 3, 2014. Interested parties can review and comment on the rules here.

–David Clucas