The latest victim in the Obama administration’s overregulationpalooza appears to be just about anyone who wants to snap a picture in a nationally designated forest.

Proposed regulations would require permits for still photography and commercial filming on National Forest System Lands.

According to the Federal Register:

“The proposed amendment would address the establishment of consistent national criteria to evaluate requests for special use permits on National Forest System (NFS) lands. Specifically, this policy provides the criteria used to evaluate request for special use permits related to still photography and commercial filming in congressionally designated wilderness areas.” 

The commenting period for the amendment is open until November 3.

September 25th, the National Forest System released a statement to clarify the proposed amendment. “The US Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities.”

The agency claims the measures are to protect federal lands, and I’m sure that’s the case, and have no objection with these types of wildlife preserves. But even the clarifying statement is vague:

“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,” said Tidwell. “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.”

Congressionally designated wilderness areas are protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964 and must remain in their natural condition. This is achieved in part by prohibiting certain commercial enterprises, and the agency is responsible for ensuring its policies adhere to that standard.

Right. So news crews, no permit needed. Movie crews, permit required. Got it. But what of the tourist and amateur photographer?

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.

If I’m on a family trip and take a picture of my sister in front of a mountain, is she then a model and do I need a permit?

If I take a picture of my tent amidst a scenic forest backdrop, or a raccoon digging through my Chex Mix, does that mean I’ve used a prop and should’ve obtained a proper permit?

So. Many. Questions.

Follow Kemberlee Kaye on Twitter 

Featured Image from Wikimedia Commons



Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.