US Forestry Service wages war on photography in national parks


Small correction: The US Forest Service oversees the country’s National Forests, not National Parks. The latter are managed by the National Park Service. The rule under discussion seems to only apply to the Forests, not the Parks.


I was literally typing the same thing. They’re different cabinet departments…the USFS is part of the Agriculture Dept and the NPS is part of the Interior Dept.


The US Forest Service and the National Parks Service have nothing to do with each other. The USFS falls under the dept of Agriculture, the NPS under the dept of the Interior.

slow typer I see


Also, my understanding is that this only applies to designated Wilderness areas within Forest Service lands.

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It’s not a “ban”, it’s not a “war”. It’s a fee.

Maybe if our dipshit Congress would fund these parks, they wouldn’t have to find other ways to raise cash.


The deeply frustrating thing (and the one that suggests either evil, or incompetence indistinguishable from it) is that requiring permits for certain things isn’t unreasonable; but there is a way to do that without any of the creepy stuff.

You want to bring in some [giant IMAX rig][1] that looks like a MANPADS system, along with a metric ton of 65mm film, 10 productions flunkies, and enough support gear to maintain a firebase? Sure, you should probably need a permit for that. Not necessarily one that costs more than basic administrative processing; but we can’t have too many such operations running around a given park at any given time, and we’ll need to be sure that you aren’t wreaking havoc while shooting.

You want to do something utterly commercial, hugely high budget; but all shot by a small team of visitors with high-end gopro-equivalents? The state has no legitimate interest in why you want to shoot, and a shoot like that isn’t going to be any higher footprint than an equivalent number of campers…

Permitting requirements by purpose seem like an inevitable problem waiting to happen, or actually happening. Permits by size/scope/impact; by contrast, seem largely reasonable(assuming that a total idiot doesn’t write them). Some sorts of photographic equipment, and filming operations, are pretty serious business in terms of impact, some are effectively indistinguishable from just walking around with a backpack.

I’d be fully in support of permitting requirements that reflect different degrees of scale and disruption; but only if they are wholly purpose agnostic. If somebody wants to shoot his family vacation like a big budget blockbuster? He’d better be prepared to plan and permit like one. If somebody wants to shoot a big-budget blockbuster like an eco-tourist? That’s not Uncle Sam’s problem, or business…


Lots to like here Fuzzy. Testify.

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If I’m on forestry land and Im engaged in activity that will produce a marketable product or it will further my career, I would expect to likewise pay for permits and such. Maybe the documentary Mile & a Half would be a good example to use?

Its the same thing in my town for the city owned train station and a county owned nature garden. Am I giving away my rights somehow? Im free to shoot my personal photos in these spots without so much of a question, but if I bring along models Im gping to be answering questions before the first click.


Who decides who is a journalist and who isn’t? Also, if a journalist takes pictures on vacation, should they have to pay? Similarly, if a non-journalist sells a photo to a magazine, does that put them in violation?

There is no bar to being a journalist. Anyone who says they are a journalist is one. Conversely, can’t a person simply say they aren’t acting as a journalist when taking pictures? What a messy messy law.


If this “war” goes the same way as the “war on terrorism” or the “war on drugs,” I expect a new golden age of nature photography.


Why is there another thread dedicated to this topic?

Honestly, it seems as if everyone is conspiring to give us only half the story. The prposed regulation modifies an existing regulation,and can only be understood in context. One blogger proves to be the sole source of these articles. And somehow numbers ($1500, $1000) appear as if from nowhere, without any sources, whatsoever It’s a total clusterfuck.


Corey writes:

Any “journalist” in the parks needs to pay $1500 for a permit, and will face fines of $1000 per shot for unauthorized photos.

Uh, no. Please don’t make shit up. Let’s look at the source you linked to:

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

I agree that the rules as described in the link are over broad and ill advised and should be recinded. They are bad enough on their own that you don’t need to the the exemplar for bad reporting / blogging / whatever you do by removing the qualifiers that make the difference between fact and bullshit. (And that’s assuming the source is accurate.)


That makes sense, then… Wilderness areas generally require a permit for anybody to enter. They limit the land’s load to a certain # of people and have restrictions on what can be brought into the areas (e.g. no cans or glass).

Edit: here’s a link to the permit rules for the Wilderness area that I always visited in my late-teens/early-20’s: - Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - Rules and Regulations


Here’s an oppurtunity to advance one’s career if your a journalist. Get caught violating this law and then fight it in court. You will be hailed a hero.

Also, if a journalist takes pictures on vacation, should they have to pay?

Are there "models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities."in the picture? Did that journalist take the picture “at a location where members of the public are generally not allowed”?


This story has already run its course on facebook. There’s nothing there. The fees only apply to situations where the forest service would need to spend staff time to manage cleanup. Theres a specific exception for journalists. Individuals carrying cameras on foot need not get permits, and they can sell the pictures. Its only projects that stand to impact these areas that need to worry about permits. Relax, everyone!


Baloney, if it’s open to the public, anyone legally visiting the area should have the right to record whatever they want. They should also have the right to sell copies of it later if they want to. That’s kind a core concept that defines “public land,” as long as you’re not damaging anyone else’s ability to enjoy the space it’s all fair game.

If that’s not the case, then the laws are wrong and stupid.

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints, and $1500.


I wrote a bit about this last night and actually read through the 1964 Wilderness Act which is surprisingly succinct about commercial use of wilderness. I made the same mistake of conflating parks and forest service but despite not knowing every detail, I think the intent of all this criticism is what matters.

The rules are nicely summed up here:

No, the Forest Service is Not Planning to Charge You $1500 to Photograph the Wilderness

While not as horrible as they’ve been made out by the press, there are a few sticky pieces related to video. Flip that switch on your camera into video mode and you get a whole different set of rules. Motion pictures are just an illusion caused by a series of still images, should the rules be different?