Talk about bureaucracy run amok. The U.S. Forest Service wants to tighten restrictions on how filmmakers and photographers can cover events in wilderness areas — going so far as to require permits before companies can take a photograph or video.
Originally, the Forest Service had said the rule would apply to all members of the media except in cases of breaking news, but facing criticism, officials announced late Thursday night that news organizations would be exempt.
The notion that government — in the form of a low-level Forest Service employee — could essentially control access to public lands clearly would violate the First Amendment.
Imagine the Forest Service turning down a photographer looking for evidence of bad land management practices.
The costs are not cheap, either. Permits can cost up to $1,500, with those who don’t get a permit facing fines up to $1,000.
In one of the lamest justifications we have heard for a dumb idea, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director said restrictions are needed to preserve the character of the country’s wilderness. The rules, she said, are being implemented under the Wilderness Act of 1964 provisions to protect the wilderness from being exploited for commercial use.
They’ve been on the books for 48 months, but now could be enforced.
Comments are being accepted until December, and we hope some of the reactions come from our congressional delegation. This rule is unnecessary.
Oh, in the meantime, the Forest Service is asking everyone to send in — what else? — photographs of their favorite fall colors. You can see this exploitation of nature at the Forest Service website, and participate by sending photos to fallcolorsfs.fed.us.
No mention was made of needing a permit.
— Santa Fe New Mexican