Park Service Charging for Photos
Thursday, June 8, 2006; 5:02 AM
WASHINGTON -- Wedding parties and other groups hoping to commemorate their special event with a photograph at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument or other popular landmarks on National Park Service land now have to pay for a permit.
Under a new policy that began May 15, the Park Service is requiring a payment of $50 to $250 from groups that hire commercial photographers to snap pictures at some of the 390 monuments, parks and historic sites it oversees. The cost depends on the size of the group.
The fees are being charged at some of the busiest Park Service sites in the Washington, D.C., area and at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Other heavily used sites include the Statue of Liberty, Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve, Big Bend National Park in Texas, and Yellowstone National Park.
Officials said the fees are in response to a 2000 federal law that requires various agencies to come up with ways to recoup the costs of maintenance, security and other expenses stemming from commercial filming and photography on federal land.
Lee Dickinson, the Park Service official who oversees the program, said the fees already have helped Park Service workers avoid scheduling conflicts among visitors at the most popular locations, particularly those offering once in a lifetime memories.
"If you really want your pictures taken at the overlook that everybody in the park goes to, then you're probably going to be asked to get a permit," she said.
Stephen Voss, a freelance photojournalist in Washington, said he is aggravated with the change.
"If park rangers start actively enforcing the permit requirement, I will certainly start looking for other places to shoot," said Voss, who often photographs wedding parties at the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. He said he has yet to be approached during an assignment.
The Park Service is not alone in charging fees for photos on federal land.
The Bureau of Land Management, which has huge landholdings in the western United States, has charged filmmakers and commercial photographers since 2000, though its policy is more relaxed. "If no models or props are used, no permits or fees are required," said Lola Bird, a bureau spokeswoman.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also charges fees, but only in select areas, said Dana Laster, who oversees the permit program for the National Arboretum in Washington.
There soon could be a standard set of fees, however. A task force has been created to develop a uniform policy for photography on federal land. Public comment could begin later this summer, officials said.
Jolie Bouton, a Philadelphia secretary who will get married on land controlled by the National Forest Service in Sedona, Ariz., in September, is among those worried about photography fees.
"I'm just having a half hour ceremony on land we all own, and it shouldn't cost me 150 bucks," Bouton said.
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