Home / General / Why is the Forest Service Restricting Photography in Wilderness Areas?

Why is the Forest Service Restricting Photography in Wilderness Areas?


My love of an intrusive federal government is well-known. I think government can indeed do most things better than the private sector. But that doesn’t mean that government is perfect. Far from it. I was hoping that the FDA’s attempts to restrict raw milk cheese imports was the stupidest regulatory standard I would hear of this year. But the Forest Service has it beat:

The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.

Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

Huh? Why?

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions have been in place on a temporary basis for four years and are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.

Close didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”

That doesn’t make very much sense at all. First of all, it’s a non-problem. Second, why does it apply to individuals taking pictures?

Not surprisingly, there is a significant backlash from western members of Congress of both parties:

Rep. Peter DeFazio and three other congressional leaders said Monday they still have deep concerns about the constitutionality of a U.S. Forest Service proposal restricting wilderness photography.

The Forest Service faced nationwide outrage last week over plans to require a permit for photography and filming in vast swaths of the country’s federally designated wilderness areas. Its chief, Tom Tidwell, backed off late Thursday, saying his agency respected the First Amendment and wouldn’t restrict media or amateur photographers’ access.

But the onslaught of criticism has continued.

As written, the proposal would allow special permits to be granted for commercial filming in wilderness only to share information about the “use and enjoyment of wilderness” or its scientific, educational, historic or scenic values.

DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the top leaders in the House Natural Resources Committee, said that requirement was “constitutionally questionable” and should be rescinded.

“We do not believe the Forest Service, or any other agency, should be in the business of determining what type of information can be disseminated to the public,” they said in a Monday letter to Tidwell.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said the provision was just one example of the gaps between Tidwell’s promises Thursday and the Forest Service’s written proposal.

Tidwell told the Associated Press last week that the plan didn’t apply to still photography. The proposal repeatedly says it does.

I’d say there is about a zero percent chance this ever gets implemented. I wish I knew why the heck this proposal was even floated.

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  • howard

    I’ll bet some in-house counsel said “someone can sell a picture he or she takes and that’s commercial exploitation.”

    • Gwen


      The requirement for a permit has already been implemented.

      The current rulemaking is over writing a rule that relates to how permits should be issued.


      Now to be sure, if you don’t have a policy for issuing permits, then requiring permits is extremely unfair.

      I also think that the Forest Service’s argument that this is required by the Wilderness Act is extremely crummy. Photography and filming are not mentioned anywhere in the statute, and it seems to me that FS is simply engaging in empire-building by writing this rule.


      The current rulemaking regarding the permit-issuance rule is open for comment. I haven’t submitted a comment, but if you actually want to be heard by the FS, I’d recommend doing so here:


  • Pat

    Well, if you have a wilderness area where no one is allowed to take pictures and really, only the Forest Service has access, what in the world could you do there? Perhaps grow something that’s profitable?

    How much do they pay those guys anyway? I’m betting that it’s not very much.

    I’m thinking that the people at the top would not think very hard on why people near the bottom might float such an idea.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Dear Sir or Madam as the case may be,

      Sometimes I drift into believing that I am as cynical as necessary. You have provided me with a reminder that I am not, and I thank you.

      P.S. Who put you up to this post, anyway? Big Tobacco??

      • Pat

        Nobody, just finishing my cup of tea before I get down to work.

      • Pat

        Actually, you want cynical? If the Forest Service bans photography in wilderness areas, no one will know if someone has gone in and logged there. Unless you have a before picture of an old-growth stand, it’s a lot less likely you’ll be able to prove anything.

        So forbidding photography makes it more likely that people who already know where the $100,000 trees are in the area will go in and get them.

        • Bruce Vail

          Yes. It may be apocryphal, but I recall reading that the Forest Service allowed extensive clear cutting in the George Washington National Forest (Va), but not in any areas within the sight lines from the parkway. Thus, the destruction went forward, but hardly anybody could see it.

          • sharonT

            Oh that’s a shame. I camped in that forest many, many years ago.

            The parkway is in the Shenandoah National Park. The GW Forrest is one ridge to the west.

            • Bruce Vail

              My memory often play tricks with me. It may have been the areas near the Blue Ridge Parkway that were being clear cut.

              But I drove some of the back roads in the GW Natl Park as a college kid and there was plenty of logging on there then.

          • Bufflars

            I thought this was routinely done deliberately so that the ugliness of clear cutting is at least hidden from the majority of the “users” of the forest. Not really to hide the fact (although this may be true as well) but to lessen the impact on tourism.

          • That was standard procedure throughout the national forests.

          • djw

            But was the claim that it was in a designated wilderness area? That would be quite remarkable and unlawful, whereas logging in other kinds of national forest land is ordinary and routine. Wilderness areas make up less than 10% of the GW national forest.

        • trollhattan

          My first thought was the people running cattle don’t want to be photographed, nor the profound damage their grazing does. All for a buck and a half per month per head. (The fee Bundy doesn’t want to pay.)

        • It’s worth noting that there really aren’t $100,000 trees in many wilderness areas. These are almost all low-grade timber areas because of high elevation. There are a few exceptions to this but because they are lower elevation and are therefore popular with Portland and Seattle hikers, they are unlikely to be logged surreptitiously.

          • Pat

            Good point. Why do you think that they are limiting commercial photography?

    • rea

      The proposed regulations are for commercial activity–not someone’s vacation photos–although the line isn’t always easy to draw nowadays.

  • muddy

    Probably floated by some idiot tea partier bureaucrat trying to make government look bad.

    Hur hur, those DemonRats like intrusive gov’t so much, let’s see how they like this, hur hur everyone will believe it was Obummer’s idea because that’s just how HE ALWAYS IS hur hur!!1eleventy!!11

  • Schadenboner

    Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

    Um, guys? I got some bad news for you…

    • Malaclypse

      You beat me to it.

      I remember back in the day, parking in a garage in Harvard Square was 18 bucks, while getting a ticket on Mt Auburn St was 10.

      That said, to be a tax nerd, permits are tax deductible, while fines are not, so there is some small set of circumstances where the fine will in fact be more expensive.

      • Lee Rudolph

        The fine might be per picture snapped.

        • I believe it is per picture.

          • runsinbackground

            Do individual video frames count as pictures for purposes of levying that fine? That would be the icing on the bovine shitcake.

    • brugroffil

      Yeah, came here to post that.

    • so-in-so

      At last, someone codified “Forgiveness is easier to get than permission.”

      • Schadenboner

        …Ray Rice?

  • Barry Freed

    It sounds of a piece with this administrations attacks on whistleblowers.

    My first thought was this was so they couldn’t document all the destruction being wrought by those bozos on ATVs.

  • Todd

    Sounds like the start of every other sci-fi film.

  • It’s so no one gains photographic evidence of what the qu–rs are doing to our soil Obama’s secret training camps for child refugees who are smuggling Black Ebola Plague in cantaloupes.

    Just kidding. It really is part of a plan to lure citizen journalamists like J. O’Keefe into a grizzly bear intensive environment. Soup’s on, Smokey!

    • That would be just about the best thing ever. O’Keefe pulling a Timothy Treadwell would fill me with joy forever and ever. :)

      • Werner Herzog

        This prospect fills me with great joy.

        • Hogan

          Oh go eat your shoe.

    • tsam

      Soup’s on, Smokey!



  • rea

    The Wilderness Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits commercial activities in designated wilderness areas. Ergo, strict restrictions on commercial photograph or filming in designated wilderness areas are required by law. This becomes somewhat problematic 50 years after the statute was enacted, because computers and the internet have blurred the line between commercial and amateur. However it is not really a First Amendment issue–freedom of the press isn’t a guaranty of access. “The president is meeting with Putin in the Oval Office? Let me in–Freedom of the Press!” doesn’t cut it.

    • chrisc

      Commercial guide services routinely operate in wilderness areas. What’s the difference?

      • Gwen

        The idea is that they operate, but require a permit.

        I still don’t think the law technically requires this (see my comment above), but it’s not an implausible stretch.

        • Gwen

          Another thing too, is that most commercial photography is going to have a de minimis impact on the environment.

          The law probably should be interpreted as furthering the purpose of conserving wilderness for future enjoyment, and regulators should probably not attempt to regulate activity that doesn’t materially conflict with that purpose.

          The one environmental regulation regime I am fairly familiar with is the clean air act, and (at least in Texas, which may not be the best example) there are a whole lot of activities that release air pollution (for example, if you are in your garage refinishing furniture; keep in mind that turpentine/solvents release a lot of volatile organic chemicals into the air), but do not require a permit because they have are covered under the de minimis exemption.

          • joe from Lowell

            Is there language in the Clean Air Act itself that establishes a de minimus exception? Or did the Agency create the exemption itself in the rule making stage?

            • Bufflars

              Most parts of the Clean Air Act address large polluters and those who fall into certain industrial categories no matter their size. The individual states actually have quite a bit of leeway as far as regulating activities that aren’t specifically called out in the CAA. So essentially, the CAA establishes some really high de minimis thresholds and States are free to create much lower ones through laws or regulation if they so choose.

      • rea

        Commercial guide services routinely operate in wilderness areas. What’s the difference?

        Commercial guide services need a permit to operate in wilderness areas.

        The act takes the form of a general prohibition of commercial activity and exceptions allowed by regulations on a finding of need.

  • JustRuss

    I wish I knew why the heck this proposal was even floated.

    The million dollar question. These policies don’t just materialize out of thin air, there should be a paper trail, and I hope someone follows it. DeFazio is my rep, and he’s actually pretty good at that sort of thing, I hope he decides to dig into this.

    • rea

      Because the statute requires it? Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964:

      Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.

      Only a few weeks ago, the memory of Howard Zahniser, who wrote the act, was being honored on this site.

      • sharonT

        Oh, that seems pretty straight forward.

        It’s up to Congress to amend the act if they want to permit commercial photography.

        Thank you edit button.

        So, no wilderness skiing via helicopter either.

      • drkrick

        “Because the Act requires it” would be a more persuasive reason if this had happened in 1965 or so. Fifty years after passage, something else is likely to be driving it.

        • tsam

          Probably the same sort of thing that drove the BLM to impound Bundy’s cattle. Someone taking advantage of the bureau’s complacency/leniency.

          It always seems to be this way. Things roll along just fine, but there’s always one fuckhead that has to ruin it for everyone by being a greedy, selfish shit.

        • Bufflars

          The flip side is that many times certain administrations consciously choose not to draft regulations that they are “required” to draft. The fact that the Obama administration is finally finishing up proposing regulations that were required by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments is a good thing, even if they are 24 years late. I’m not sure if we want to necessarily put a statute of limitations on drafting regs that are required by law, otherwise politics would likely result in most regs never being issued.

          (This is not to say that the regulation in the OP is worthwhile, or even that the specific Clean Air Act required regs I mentioned are not themselves problematic in many ways.)

      • JustRuss

        Hiking through a wilderness area and snapping a few pics to sell to National Geographic hardly constitutes a commercial enterprise….in a sane world. But I suppose if Playboy wants to shoot a “Girls of the Ansel Adams Wilderness” calendar, USFS has to draw the line.

    • guthrie

      If it was the UK, it would be part of creating an income feed prior to privatising the public service. In the USA, I don’t know.

  • Origami Isopod

    My first reaction was that this had something to do with “terrorism.” Though of course a wilderness area isn’t exactly a target-rich environment. I suspect Pat’s theories are correct.

  • rea

    The degree of misinformation in this thread is frustrating. Once more, this regulation does not apply to you unless your photography or filming constitutes commercial activity.

    • But as the linked articles state, the regulation as written actually doesn’t say that. It states that all photography is covered.

      • Hogan

        First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they’d allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.

        Even the First Amendment advocates aren’t saying it applies to everyone.

        • Yes they are–they are saying it applies to everyone needing to acquire a permit. Which is exactly what the regulation states.

          • Hogan

            But not everyone needs to acquire a permit.

          • joe from Lowell

            From the Federal Register link Gwen provided above:

            The revised regulations promote consistency in the special uses program, improve the agency’s ability to resolve management issues by requiring permits
            in certain situations, and reduce the agency’s administrative costs by eliminating the need to issue a Forest order to require a special use permit in certain situations and by providing the authorized officer with the discretion to waive the requirement for a special use authorization when issuance of a permit serves no management purpose.

      • rea

        It states that all photography is covered.

        It actually doesn’t–it says that all photography by reporters is covered.

        And the actual proposed regulation applies to “still photography” and “commercial filming”–and when you read the phrase “still photography” you’re supposed to reference the definition contained in 36 CFR 251.51:

        Still photography—use of still photographic equipment on National Forest System lands that takes place at a location where members of the public generally are not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely, or uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.

        . . . which does not strike me as particularly objectionable.

        • rea

          Two other pertinent definitions from 36 CFR 251.51:

          Commercial filming—use of motion picture, videotaping, sound recording, or any other moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of models, actors, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news, as defined in FSH 2709.11, chapter 40.

          Commercial use or activity—any use or activity on National Forest System lands (a) where an entry or participation fee is charged, or (b) where the primary purpose is the sale of a good or service, and in either case, regardless of whether the use or activity is intended to produce a profit.

          • Bufflars

            Yeah, one should be careful when reading federal regulations. Often times there are a lot of words or phrases who’s definition in the rule is substantially different or quite a bit more specific than the common use one.

      • L2P

        That’s because non-commercial uses are already allowed under CFR 21.50(c). You have to read through all the definitions and associated regs, but essentially the rules are this:

        1. Commercial filming is prohibited without a permit;
        2. Still photography is prohibited without a permit if it’s in a place where the public isn’t allowed, it will damage the area, or it uses props, models, etc. (i.e., it looks a LOT like commercial photography);
        3. Nothing else is really addressed.

        There’s probably no first amendment issue here. It’s commercial speech, so they should be able to regulate it. Also, arguably they aren’t discriminating against viewpoints, they are only allowing access for certain commercial activities, among them some expressive activities. It’s a time, place and manner restriction.

        The problem for the Forest Service is that if they allow reporters to do commercial filming without a permit, they actually DO have a First Amendment issue. Now they would be allowing some commercial speech to take place, and not allowing other speech, based on content.

        tl, dr: Their choices are (1) require permits for all commercial speech activity or (2) don’t require permits for all commercial speech activity. Do you want Wilderness Areas to be freely available for the next Transformers shoot?

        • BigHank53

          It’s not the photography that’s the problem. It’s the size and impact of the crews that go along with them. One guy with a camera isn’t an issue, but if he wants to have lights and dollies and maybe a generator it’s a whole different ball of wax.

    • sharonT

      It’s the power of the original post!

    • Warren Terra

      I do think there’s a first amendment issue here in that art photography or wildlife photography can be commercial, the photographer gets paid, the photographs are sold, etcetera – but the same can be true of photojournalism. If a professional journalist is in the national wilderness photographing the flora and fauna, how do you distinguish between their attempts to put together a calendar, to illustrate an article for National Geographic (pure eye candy, but serious of purpose), or maybe an article about environmental degradation for Mother Jones? Should you even try?

      • rea

        at a location where members of the public generally are not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely, or uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.

        The regulation, as quoted above.

  • ThrottleJockey

    I think government can indeed do most things better than the private sector.

    Citations needed.

    • Health care. Education. Etc.

      • But Loomis, this is unfair because you also need to consider what happens when only the Free Market provides all of the things the government provides.

        It’s all very well to say, for example, that there’s no way private schools could fully replace public schools and maybe you can point at one a few dozens of charter school clusterfucks as proof. But those schools are competing with public schools, so there’s no way to really know unless we eliminate public schools all together.

        In closing I aM nOT a crAnK, blibber bloo.

      • ThrottleJockey

        My surprise was “most things”…no one would question “some things” or “many things”…the post here on regulatory capture yesterday is one reason why “most things” is questionable, and then of course there are many countries that tried heavy socialism and failed.

        If the Feds took over 60% of all economic activity tomorrow–roughly tripling its current size–who thinks that would mean improved prosperity for working class and middle class families?

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          why *wouldn’t* that improve prosperity for the poor/working/middle classes?

          • ThrottleJockey

            The short answer: Since when has John Boehner looked out for the poor/working/middle classes? Its an invitation to increase crony capitalism. The longer answer: By increasing crony capitalism it leads to higher costs and typically slows innovation. The only way it could work would be to have a constitutional system that banned the John Boehners and Dick Cheneys of the world from holding office.

            • jim, some guy in iowa


              those kinds of guys *run* the private sector industries you name downthread

              • ThrottleJockey

                That’s my point…to paraphrase LBJ, do you want them pissing inside the tent, or outside the tent?

                I think present day Russia and China are good examples of what happens with a heavy government involvement in the economy.

                (I hope others weigh in because I’m not exactly certain what percentages of those economies Putin and Xi control but I believe its much larger than the 20% the US Government controls).

                • DrS

                  Noted democracies China and Russia.

                • DrS

                  I mean, it matters less who nominally controls that much, government vs private actors. What matters is the concentration of power into a few hands.

                  It’s not some ‘amount of government’.

                  It’s funny how often you sound like a run of the mill right winger.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  no, your point- at least the obvious one- is that the sections of the economy that private individuals should be trusted to run are actually run by people who we can’t trust to run a decent government

                  there’s logic to that, but it’s of a perverse and essentially negative sort

            • cpinva

              “The only way it could work would be to have a constitutional system that banned the John Boehners and Dick Cheneys of the world from holding office.”

              works for me.

        • Malaclypse

          If they do it by nationalizing energy, insurance, health care, and most financial services, I’m on board.

          • DrS

            Basically, by the time we’ve figured out an optimal way to provide it, it’s a natural monopoly and should be managed publically to avoid rent taking.

            Also, tax heavily anyone who’s making a lot of money just to make sure they aren’t rent taking some where that hasn’t been noticed yet as such. And to prevent them from moving into rent taking via privatization schemes.

            • Lee Rudolph

              Hey, there. One man’s rent taking is another’s Divine Right, you know!

        • UserGoogol

          I’m skeptical of Erik’s claim in the terms he phrased it, but honestly, 60% might be doable. In some of the more left-leaning countries in Western Europe, government spending as a percentage of GDP can get pretty high (in the 50%-ish range if not 60% per se) while still basically having a market based economy. Much of domestic spending is in industries where government provision is not particularly radical. Health care, insurance, education, transportation, housing, utilities: once you start taking that kind of stuff under government control, it starts adding up fast.

      • mud man

        Local government does those things well, sometimes.

        • Malaclypse

          Local government is the bestest, least corrupt government imaginable. Just ask the people of Ferguson.

          • AB

            Or Chicago.

          • Did you miss the word “sometimes” in his comment? Or did you read it as “always”?

            • Malaclypse

              I just remember his consistent stupid knee-jerk glibertarianism, and read with an appropriate level of charity.

    • Malaclypse

      Roads. Schools. Border security. Health care. Air traffic control. Meat inspection. Naval search and rescue. Fire control.

      Shall I go on?

      • That’s ridiculous. It’s never taken me more than a couple of minutes to search a naval.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Color me omphaloskeptical.

          • Mrs__B came home with some chocolate Lindt the other day. I asked her if that’s what the Easter Bunny finds in his naval.

            • tsam

              If Mrs_B wasn’t involved, I would have let you hear my naval semen joke. But I won’t go there because reasons.

        • Hogan

          Innie or outie?

      • ThrottleJockey

        Those are all areas (broadly speaking public safety) where government control classically works best. I’ll list some where its more of an, ahem, ‘edge’ case: IT, Automotive, Media, Retail, Consumer Goods, Food Service, Heavy Industry.

        • Origami Isopod

          IT? Really?

          • ThrottleJockey

            Yes we already know about DARPA. IT is more than just the internet. There’s, you know, software and hardware too. I don’t think DC could rival Silicon Valley’s innovation. MITI in Japan certainly didn’t make the Japanese a hotbed of IT innovation. Do you think Steve Jobs would have tolerated the Obamacare IT issues anywhere near as long as Kathleen Sebelius did? If memory serves Target fired their CIO and CEO within months of their IT security issues last Christmas.

            • Pat

              Public research funding is a must for any kind of progress.

              • DrS

                Yeah…Steve Jobs is just some weirdo who only eats fruit without government investment in computing.

              • burritoboy

                Perhaps, but cutting-edge research is only a small part of IT.

                • DrS

                  But that’s where the real innovation comes from.

            • DrS

              Oh sweet Jeebus…the Obamacare IT issues were in large part due to outsourcing to the private sector.

              • Yes, if you take a few seconds to investigate the amount of government work that is really performed by private businesses, all of the “Government Bad! Private sector Good” bleating goes from being stupid and irritating to incredibly moronic and irritating.

            • cpinva

              this would be the same private IT companies responsible for the most recent major league computer system screw up? I refer, of course, to the rollout of both the Federal ACA and state ACA exchange sites. all done by private contractors, under government supervision, kind of.

            • Malaclypse

              I don’t think DC could rival Silicon Valley’s innovation.

              I’ve never heard of Microsoft either.

            • MITI in Japan certainly didn’t make the Japanese a hotbed of IT innovation.

              It would be uncomfortable for the Japanese to become a hotbed.

              However, the world’s fastest super-computer still lives in the National Super Computer Center in the democratic hotbed of China.

              • Malaclypse

                At least China will never match our train system.

                • The Temporary Name

                  I saw this recently (so-so, but interesting enough) and one of the people bemoaning the funding of pure research talks about how the Chinese have gotten it right.

                • This gets funnier every time I read it.

                • joe from Lowell

                  At least China will never match our train system.

                  “Who needs a car in L.A.? We got the best public transportation system in the world!”

    • Origami Isopod

      What, no anecdotes about your brother’s first grade teacher’s mailman who was incompetent but couldn’t be fired because YOONYUNZ! ?

      • ThrottleJockey

        I think unions are great for workers. I’m curious if anyone knows how unions, and separately how typical working class people, fared during the days of heavy socialization in Europe.

        • DrS

          Hmm, let’s see…they got health care, excellent public transportation, pensions, retirement at a decent age, good educational opportunities, job security, public works.

          Your standard dystopian nightmare.

          • cpinva

            “Your standard dystopian nightmare.”

            wait! you forgot to mention the typical six month waits for pretty much any kind of medical care.

            • DrS

              My dad’s partner, on Medicare here in the states, didn’t realize she needed supplimental insurance overseas. She broke her hip in the UK.

              I work in health care analysis, my brother and his wife are physicians…we got a real good laugh about the “horror” she faced dealing with the NHS. Better care, with slightly more hospitalization than she would have had here post surgery (a good thing in this case given her age), at a cost that ran to 7-10% of the typical uninsured cost in the US.

              It’s a real horror.

        • What are you talking about? Eastern Europe? Or Norway and Sweden-type socialism?

          • Maybe the 1848 revolutions?

            • Hogan

              Or early childhood? That’s when I started to get socialized.

              I’ll let you know as soon as I’m done.

              • AB

                Socialism in one Country Day School.

    • tsam

      How about Blackwater vs the US armed forces? That might be the most glaring example.

      • Twenty bucks says Blackwater loses in under twelve hours.

        • tsam

          Probably, but Blackwater be gettin all the dividends…so win?

  • sean199

    This isn’t actually as evil as it sounds. The regulations are quite similar to those used by the NPS. The guidance issued to the field level folks is that permits are required for filming that significantly impacts the resource, ie filming a movie or a commercial. I cannot find any details on the segment the Oregon public tv producers were trying to film, but if it was for an segment for entertainment, ie shooting footage for something like ken burns national park Documentry, then requiring a permit makes sense. No federal employee is going to prevent a news crew from filming, nor a visitor from selling a picture of a pretty sunset when they get home. The purpose of the rule is to limit commercial activity in public spaces. Fwiw

    • And to be clear–that’s fine. If a film crew wants to go into a wilderness area, there should be a permit process. But it should not apply to all users, which it does and which is why DeFazio and Grijalva are teaming up with Republicans here.

      • rea

        36 CFR 251.50:

        A special use authorization is not required for noncommercial recreational activities, such as camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and horseback riding, or for noncommercial activities involving the expression of views, such as assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, and parades, unless:

        (1) The proposed use is a noncommercial group use as defined in § 251.51 of this subpart;

        (2) The proposed use is still photography as defined in § 251.51 of this subpart; or

        (3) Authorization of that use is required by an order issued under § 261.50 or by a regulation issued under § 261.70 of this chapter.

        Start here if you want to research this:


        • Mojo

          Rea, I know it’s frustrating but just keep repeating the facts. Eventually at least some people will realize that “unless” means that it doesn’t “apply to all users” and “as defined in § 251.51” means that maybe what § 251.51 says is more definitive than a sound bite from a politician and so on.

      • Hogan

        DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the top leaders in the House Natural Resources Committee, said that requirement was “constitutionally questionable” and should be rescinded.

        “We do not believe the Forest Service, or any other agency, should be in the business of determining what type of information can be disseminated to the public,” they said in a Monday letter to Tidwell.

      • Pat

        And I take back my paranoid comment above if that’s what it’s about.

      • trollhattan

        Here’s a picture I took in a wilderness last August. Maybe I made a millyun dollars off of it, maybe not. Come get me, coppers!!!

        • Is that in the Sierra?

          • trollhattan

            Yes, Hoover Wilderness a couple miles east of Yosemite’s northeast corner.

        • Origami Isopod

          Oh, very nice.

          • trollhattan


        • tsam

          I’M TELLING!

  • Jeffrey Beaumont

    I’m confused why the idea that this applies to individuals taking photos for their own personal use seems to be some unkillable zombie idea. As people upthread have demonstrated, the permitting is clearly for commercial photography.

    That said, is seems to my non-lawyer mind that there is an obvious slippery point in all this, perhaps best illustrated by this blog. Suppose Erik decides to go hiking in a wilderness area, and posts a picture he took on LGM to illustrate some post about logging or environmental history. While I know this blog isn’t a commercial venture, you guys do indeed have ads in the sidebar, swag for sale, etc. Would posting a pic you took for personal use on a blog where you might derive some support from ads constitute commercial photography?

  • The Forest Service has tried to clarify all this:

    The proposal does not change the rules for visitors or recreational photographers. 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.

    Currently, commercial filming permit fees range around $30 per day for a group up to three people. A large Hollywood production with 70 or more people might be as much as $800. The $1,500 commercial permit fee cited in many publications is erroneous, and refers to a different proposed directive.

    • rea

      A large Hollywood production with 70 or more people might be as much as $800.

      Although a group activity involving 75 or more people requires a permit anyway.

      • DrS

        Grumble, grumble government red tape interfering with my orgies.

        Keep your laws of our bodies, Uncle Sam!

  • Sev

    My first thought was: Forest Service is under Agriculture Dept., and we all know that such activities are now state/ proprietary secrets because nobody must see how soylent green is produced…

    rea’s explanation is logical, still doesn’t tell us WHY NOW?

    • MD Rackham

      Soylent Green is photographers!

  • JR

    Because they can? Just being cynical.

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with commercial photography or videography as long as the equipment is carried by a person on foot. Even if it takes a few people to carry everything, as long as they do no damage or even wear and tear. Few should be a number long on common sense and short on stupid, like a group smaller than 8 or 10, some number like that.

    But I take pictures and shoot video, usually non-profit. So I’m doomed as a person with an ax to grind.

  • YosemiteSemite

    So I can’t be prevented from shooting pictures of police in the performance of their duty, where there are real issues of civil liberties and public safety, but I can’t take a picture of a squirrel running down a log? I think I’m missing something here.

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