The United States Forest Service is proposing charging $1,500 for wilderness photography permits, a potential First Amendment violation.
Under a set of new rules that will be finalized in November, members of the media will be required to purchase a wilderness photography permit, which can cost up to $1,500, in before taking photographs or video footage in federally designated wilderness areas.
According to Oregonlive.com, the Forest Service defends the new proposed rule as being in line with the Wilderness Act of 1964, which attempts to prevent the exploitation of wilderness areas for commercial gain. However, conditions have changed significantly since 1964 and the lines between regular citizens and members of the media have been significantly blurred.
These days, virtually every visitor to wilderness areas has a camera on their phone and there are literally thousands of bloggers across the country who could technically be described as members of the media.
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The Forest Service has not cited any specific examples of problems that this policy is meant to address or why it is needed. Even more troubling, this new policy could allow the Forest Service to censor stories occurring in wilderness areas that are unfavorable to the government by simply refusing to approve wilderness photography permits.
According to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, "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," Wyden said. "Especially where reporters and bloggers are concerned, this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment."
The United States has over 100,000,000 acres of federally designated wilderness areas, most of which is in the western portion of the country.
The Forest Service is currently accepting public comment on this proposal before making a decision to officially adopt these policies this November. Those interested can comment here.
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What do you think about this proposed Forest Service rule regarding wilderness photography permits? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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