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U.S. Forest Service wants to charge $1,500 to take photos on
Bradley Leeb, Photographer
Champaign | IL | USA | Posted: 10:45 PM on 09.24.14
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 12:20 AM on 09.25.14
->> I don't see this getting very far.
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Steven Bisig, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 1:43 AM on 09.25.14
->> Great! I am in the process of obtaining a permit from the USFS for a 1 day still photography commercial shoot. No wonder things have been moving slow at getting my permit.
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Andrew Knapik, Photographer, Assistant
Southgate | MI | USA | Posted: 9:54 AM on 09.25.14
->> If permits can cost as much as $1500, and fines as much as $1000, it is actually cheaper to pay the fine than go through permit process.
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Richard Uhlhorn, Photographer
Chelan Falls | WA | USA | Posted: 11:51 AM on 09.25.14
->> Three years ago was asked by our FS District's Recreation Resource Officer to pay $150 for a Special Use Permit to photograph a mountain biking event taking place on our local cross-country ski area. Of course I had no idea whether or not covering this event would even generate those kinds of dollars (it didn't).

I told him No, that I would park my gear in my vehicle and just go and enjoy the race before I would pay for the privilege of shooting the event.

There was another photog there also and he also refused. So, the resource officer went to the event organizer and had him pony up permit money for us.

Three years later we don't have a problem when we show up to shoot, but with this new push, I wonder how much pressure will be applied.

We all know these agencies, paid for by tax dollars, are underfunded and constantly seek new revenue sources.

I would be curious as to how many out there have faced this demand to pay for a SUP.
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 12:25 AM on 09.26.14
->> The Park Service tried to do this a couple of years ago and people just laughed. Rangers will not do anything to you. Just ignore this crap. Except for commercial shoots, you can shoot anything you want in the national forest or any national park.

Do they seriously think a forest service law enforcement officer is going to issue a ticket to a 10-year-old for taking a picture with his cell phone of a fish he just caught? Really?

If this passes, just keep doing what you're doing and force the issue. I absolutely guarantee you nothing will happen. It may be on the books, and maybe once or twice a new or over zealous LEO will challenge you on it, but a seasoned, experienced LEO will not enforce this stupidity. They'd be laughed out of the law enforcement community for it. Just as Richard experienced, this will go nowhere.

This is another example of the level of stupidity to which our government lowers itself.

Next they will prohibit ice chests in the national forest. Or sunglasses. Or flip-flops.
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Simon Wheeler, Photo Editor, Photographer
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 9:14 AM on 09.26.14
->> Press that came to my editor yesterday evening. I've cut and pasted the whole thing. We have a national forest about 30 minutes out of town.

From: Press Officer []
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2014 6:24 PM
To: Bohrer, Dave
Subject: US Forest Service Chief: I will ensure the First Amendment is upheld under agency commercial filming

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 205-1005
Twitter: @forestservice

US Forest Service Chief: I will ensure the First Amendment is upheld under agency commercial filming directives

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2014 – The U.S. Forest Service today released information to clarify the agency’s intentions regarding a proposed directive for commercial photography and filmmaking in congressionally designated wilderness areas.

“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 proposal does not apply to news coverage, gathering information for a news program or documentary. However, if a project falls outside of that scope and the filming is intended to be on wilderness land, additional criteria are applied to protect wilderness values. In that case, a permit must be applied for and granted before any photography is permitted.

The agency issued a Federal Register notice on Sept. 4 seeking public comment on a proposal to formally establish consistent criteria for evaluating requests for commercial filming in wilderness areas as it has on national forests and grasslands. The 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.

“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.

The public originally had until Nov. 3, 2014, to comment on the proposal. Based on the high level of interest, the agency will extend the public comment period to Dec. 3, 2014.

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.

The Forest Service has long required permits according to statute for various activities on agency lands, from cutting a Christmas tree to filming a major motion picture, such as the 2013 Johnny Depp movie “The Lone Ranger.” The Disney production obtained a permit to film part of the movie on the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

If you would rather not receive future communications from US Forest Service, let us know by clicking here.
US Forest Service, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250 United States
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 2:16 PM on 09.26.14
->> I have over 15 years experience, DIRECT experience, dealing with the US Park Service and US Forest Service as both a board member of a volunteer organization and permit holder. I know how these cultures operate. I promise you, they live in a different world. The Forest Service is horrible at communicating to an outside world that deals with common sense, simple verbiage and commonly accepted procedures in decision-making. If the definition of "still photography" is delineated specifically, this is how the directive will be enforced. You have nothing to worry about. Unless you go into an area that is not open to the general public, namely USFS fire suppression bases, flight operation facilities, law enforcement facilities, damn maintenance facilities, etc. you have absolutely nothing to worry about. There are precious few areas within USFS jurisdiction that the general public cannot access, and those few areas are clearly delineated, and also hold very little interest to the average landscape photographer or tourist.

Life is not perfect. If you are shooting in the USFS and an LEO challenges you in the field (assuming you are not in restricted area), simply ask if where you are is restricted to the general public. If he or she says "No", then all you have to do is ask "Then how am I in violation of section 251.51 of the USFS regulations concerning photography in public lands?" You will hear crickets, the wind in the trees and the distant call of a hawk or crow. If you are that paranoid, then just print a copy of the USFS regulations, and be prepared to show it to an LEO when or if you are challenged. That will end the conversation. If the LEO continues to press the issue, be happy, because (and I am not an attorney), but it would seem to me you have a case for harassment.

Where most of the severe reaction is originating is the requirement for news organizations to obtain a permit. I promise you, this requirement will be overturned now that light has been shined on it.

Look, the USFS has a monumental job to do. They face continuous reductions in funding, complicated by increasing numbers of visitors. You cannot hold it against them if they occasionally mis-speak their intentions to the general public. Such is the case here. Y'all take a deep breath and get over it. I promise you, you will not have a problem shooting in USFS lands.
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Richard Uhlhorn, Photographer
Chelan Falls | WA | USA | Posted: 3:44 PM on 09.26.14
->> I for one am not going to pay for a permit on Forest Service land unless it is an actual commercial shoot I'm being paid to do. The client would have to pick up that cost.
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Wesley R. Bush, Photographer
Murfreesboro | TN | U.S. | Posted: 3:53 PM on 09.26.14
->> The news release sounds to me as if they're being as open as possible about the proposed fee. To me, it's reasonable.
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 5:00 PM on 09.28.14
->> What if you are shooting to make a work of art, which at the time was for yourself and then it eventually sells as a framed print. Would you have violated the permit process?
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Max Waugh, Photographer
Bothell | WA | USA | Posted: 11:30 PM on 09.28.14
->> A big problem in the parks at the moment is the varying rule interpretations by LE Rangers and even park officials. In some national parks, I've found that rangers enforce various rules differently from their peers, and often quite differently from what the letter of the law actually states.

There have been instances of park officials calling photographers and demanding that they pay a commercial filming permit fee after seeing video clips from the parks that were posted online for fun. Their excuses for demanding the fees are often rather thin, and again, in conflict to what is defined as "commercial filming" in the official park regulations online.

Inconsistency in enforcement and interpretation is the biggest problem with these types of new rules, and it's creating major headaches for some photographers.
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Keith Simonian, Photographer
Martinez | CA | USA | Posted: 11:23 AM on 09.29.14
->> It's nice to think every person with authority will act with logic and use their authority appropriately, but we know that's not the case.

"Give a person a law open to misinterpretation, and s/he'll misinterpret it."

Mike Spinak mentioned this story several years back on another forum and retold it in this post.

"I have personally experienced harassment from a law enforcement park ranger who insisted I needed a permit to photograph in a state park. I was photographing a
mushroom in the mud, deep in the woods, on a rainy day, when the park was empty. This ranger was misapplying a law intended to apply only to large productions, such as
George Lucas filming the Ewok scene in in Return of the Jedi in the redwood forest. He was insisting that I go through a process of getting a permit several months in
advance, including posting a million dollar bond, in order to spend the afternoon photographing fungi in the woods. I was forcibly kicked out of the woods, in lieu of fine and arrest."
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 12:32 PM on 09.29.14
->> Phil —

I'd take your word for it that news organizations "will not have a problem shooting on USNF lands" if news organizations hadn't already run into problems filming on USNF lands...
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Tom Ewart, Photographer
Bentonville | AR | USA | Posted: 10:09 AM on 09.30.14
->> I I know is that my day rate for working for the National Park Service just shot up to well over 10K a day. I'm not going to say I'm going to boycott them and even though I'd be willing to do work for a lot less usually, if they were not being so greedy. I hope they have a plan on where they are going to get their own images for marketing in the future... I wish their marketing department luck. And with a lot more photographers concerned about being fined...there goes all that fee marketing and inspiring photography on social media that might move others to visit... hope they thought this one through...
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 10:41 AM on 09.30.14
->> "hope they thought this one through"

a phrase not commonly associated with gubmit actions.
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Byron Hetzler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Granby | CO | USA | Posted: 10:33 PM on 09.30.14
->> FWIW the key phrase is "designated wilderness areas," not all USFS lands are wilderness.
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Bradly J. Boner, Photographer, Photo Editor
Jackson | WY | USA | Posted: 11:58 PM on 09.30.14
->> Doesn't matter, Byron. It's all public land.
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Thread Title: U.S. Forest Service wants to charge $1,500 to take photos on
Thread Started By: Bradley Leeb
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