Your civil servants at the U.S. Forest Service, the ones whose salaries you pay to manage land you own, are continuing to deny you your First Amendment rights of free speech. In actions reminiscent of a totalitarian regime, they demand you petition them for the right to photograph or videotape such common, legal activities as hiking, fishing and hunting in Wilderness Areas. If they like you or the message they think you’re trying to report, they may (it’s all arbitrary and left to the discretion of local Forest Service officials) grant you the right to fill out a long form to apply for a photography/filming permit, which they may or may not grant.
If you’re promoting legal sport hunting, you probably won’t get the permit.
This infringement of free speech has been going on for years, but it recently became big news because traditional press reporters have bumped their noses against it. The Forest Service told them they would heretofore have to buy $1,500 permits in order to film/photograph within Wilderness Areas.
Maybe, just maybe, the overreaching Forest Service bureaucrats have awakened a sleeping giant. There was a time in this country when the press could raise a stink and get results. Ask the ghost of Richard Nixon. Do they have the guts and staying power to do it in this case? Can they help end this egregious misuse of bureaucratic power and defend our First Amendment rights?
I’m going to guess… No. Because the Forest Service has already backpedaled. After the initial uproar, the bureaucrats must have recognized their peril because they’ve now said this: “To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities,” reported U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
Definition of terms, please? Will the Forest Service determine what is “news gathering or activities?” I’m sure they will. Forest Service denies photographers First Amendment rights Arbitrarily. Again. In fact, they’re already doing so. Tidwell also said: “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.”
Here’s the fly-in-the-ointment: Professional and amateur photographers/videographers won’t need permits unless they use models, actors or props. In recent years photographers have been threatened for photographing horse riders in Wilderness because they were props and actors. Hikers, campers, anglers, hunters and bird watchers would be considered actors, too. Any manmade objects could be considered props. So, if you’d like to crank out a blog, YouTube video or small magazine article about your backpack fishing trip to your favorite Wilderness Area, you’d have to apply for a permit. If you want to sell to Outdoor Life a picture of the big trout your grandchild caught from a Wilderness Lake, you’d have to apply for a permit. And if the Forest Service administrator of the Wilderness Area didn’t like you or fishermen or backpackers — or simply didn’t want to draw attention to the area, he or she could deny you that permit.
The Forest Service originally said citizens would have until Nov. 3, 2014, to comment on the proposal. Based on the outcry, the agency has magnanimously extended the public comment period to Dec. 3, 2014. It is hoped you and your friends will comment and comment often at this site. You have been granted an audience. You have about 60 days to attempt to defend your rights to exercise your guaranteed rights to free speech on land that you own as a citizen of the United States.
MISSOULA, Mont. – The Outdoor Writers Association of America today strongly criticized a U.S. Forest Service proposal that would require media outlets to pay for special-use permits before they film or take photos in federally designated wilderness areas, thereby severely hampering researching and reporting abilities by the media.
“The Outdoor Writers Association of America is concerned and disturbed that the U.S. Forest Service would use the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act to ratchet up its attempts to control what information is reported about wilderness areas and by whom,” said OWAA President Mark Freeman, outdoors columnist for the Mail Tribune in Medford, Oregon.
“Allowing forest supervisors to decide which journalists get to report in wilderness areas and what stories they can or can’t tell smacks of censorship and prior restraint. Restraining journalists and their reports was not intended to be part of the act’s restriction of commercialization of wilderness areas.”
“Five decades ago, outdoor journalists’ articles chronicling what was left of the country’s wild areas were precisely what created the groundswell of public support for the Wilderness Act to pass in 1964,” said OWAA Executive Director Tom Sadler. “It would be a major step backward for the Forest Service to make it harder for the public to have virtual access to these wilderness areas that are, after all, public.”
Please speak up. This is a serious issue of government infringement on your basic constitutional rights. Make your comments known to the Forest Service.