Woke up this morning to two references on my Twitter timeline to the proposed wilderness permitting procedure, one from a friend in Australia (Hi, Jim!), and one from a noted photograper and executive of Borrow Lenses (Hi, Jim!).
They cited two separate websites, with rather different spins. One seemed to think it was for “media” access, the other seemed to think it would be for freelance photographers.
Way back in 2010 when I first began working on a photo project about the Bristlecone pines, I ran across the regulation in question: It’s been in effect since then, and so this is not a new regulation; it’s a plan to make it permanent. It’s due to expire this year. At the time, I was understandably disconcerted about a fee of $1500 to do “still or commercial film photography”, and so I spoke with the regional director, a man by the name of John Louth. He said it didn’t apply to me, that it was aimed at film companies. It was a way to offset the cost of insuring that huge crews with trucks and equipment and ignorant people don’t impact the area and resources they’d be using.
As for the “media”, the regulation makes no mention of them at all. I think that may have come about because NPR wanted to film people planting trees on national forest land, and the local director wanted to charge them the full $1500 fee.
In any case, the language is rather vague and obviously open to interpretation. It really should be narrowed down to for-profit news organizations and film companies; I’m looking at you, Fox and Disney.
Here’s part of what the permitting process tries to ensure, taken directly from the actual regulation:
“A special use permit may be issued(when required by sections 45.1a and45.2a) to authorize the use of NationalForest System lands for still photography or commercial filming when the proposed activity:
1. Meets the screening criteria in 36CFR 251.54(e);
2. Would not cause unacceptableresource damage;
3. Would not unreasonably disrupt the public’s use and enjoyment of the site where the activity would occur;
4. Would not pose a public health and safety risk; and
5. Meets the following additional criteria, if the proposed activity, other than noncommercial still photography (36 CFR 251.51), would be in a congressionally designated wilderness area:
a. Has a primary objective of dissemination of information about theuse and enjoyment of wilderness or its ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value (16 U.S.C. 1131(a) and(b));
b. Would preserve the wilderness character of the area proposed for use, for example, would leave it untrammeled, natural, and undeveloped and would preserve opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation (16 U.S.C. 1131(a));
c. Is wilderness-dependent, forexample, a location within a wilderness area is identified for the proposed activity and there are no suitable locations outside of a wilderness area(16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(6));
d. Would not involve use of a motor vehicle, motorboat, or motorized equipment, including landing of aircraft, unless authorized by the enabling legislation for the wilderness area (36 CFR 261.18(a) and (c));
e. Would not involve the use of mechanical transport, such as a hangglider or bicycle, unless authorized by the enabling legislation for the wilderness area (36 CFR 261.18(b));
f. Would not violate any applicable order (36 CFR 261.57); and
g. Would not advertise any product orservice (16 U.S.C. 1133(c)).”
Frankly, ensuring all of the above seems like a steal for $1500, don’t you? Especially when you read #5 very carefully!
Never the less, it really does need to be more specific; Using an iPhone to video fast moving clouds over the Bristlecones for use on my blog should not cost $1500. Nor should Public Radio/ Public Broadcasting have to pay it; They’re non-profit.
So here’s a link to a page with the regulation and they are taking public comments. (Big green button on the upper right of the page!)