The U.S. Forest Service is finalizing plans to fine photographers who shoot on federal wild lands without a permit.
Under the measure, still photography and commercial filming in Congress-designated wilderness areas would require a permit, and shoots would also have to be approved and meet certain criteria like not advertising any product or service and being educational.
Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement the directive has been in place for more than four years and “is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild places.”
Permits would cost up to $1,500, even if someone was taking photos or video with their phone, and fines for shooting without a permit could be as high as $1,000, according to the Oregonian.
Critics have characterized the rules as too vague and say it infringes on the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
“I am very concerned about the implications this has for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press,” U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell. “It is also very troubling that journalists could be held to different standards at the discretion of the issuing officer depending on the content of their stories and its relevance to wilderness activity.”
Walden said he worried access might be granted “based on political calculations” and noted a majority of Oregon land is controlled by the federal government.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also voiced concern for the policy.
“The Forest Service needs to rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a burdensome permitting process for something as simple as taking a picture with a cell phone,” he told the Oregonian. “Especially where reporters and bloggers are concerned, this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment.”
The Forest Service is accepting public comment on the measure until Nov. 3.
This article has been updated.