Friday, September 26, 2014

USFS Backs-Off Threat of Photo Fees

As a follow-up to a posting from earlier today, I just found out that the U.S. Forest Service is backing away from a threat to impose fees on photographers who take photos on national forest lands. In a press release issued late last night, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell stated: “The US Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment. To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities.

He also goes on to state: "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. 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.”

The statements are the result of an apparent firestorm from a recently proposed, but vaguely-worded rule, that some have interpreted to mean that the USFS would be imposing fees on professional media, as well as amateur photographers, for taking photos on national forest lands. This had some First Amendment advocates alarmed.

The USFS press release further clarifies the intent of the rule with this statement:
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.
However, neither Tidwell or the press release makes clear how, or if bloggers would be impacted in anyway. Although I do think bloggers would ultimately be part of the exemption, it's not entirely certain to me.

To read the full press release, please click here.

Hiking in the Smokies

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