We sent the following note to Leo Kay, a friendly sounding bureaucrat who is just 8 days into the job as the top voice at the US Forest Service. Kay was cautious about committing to adopting the GUARDIAN policy, but we expect it will be included in a new policy and we will soon be watching images from the Wilderness on IPTV.
Director of Communications
U.S. Forest Service
Appreciated the conversation this morning and gladly share the following which should easily find its way into a national policy for photographing on ANY public lands.
As a professional photographer handling assignments for the likes of TIME, NY TIMES, NEWSWEEK, etc. I found myself on public lands making photographs for “commercial use.” These days as owner of a large stock photo agency specializing in “tutorial images” for textbooks, I have encountered overzealous rangers at locations as diverse as the Capitol Mall in D.C. and the deserts of Utah.
As a “news” photographer they backed off. As a textbook photog, they often as not ordered me to secure a “camera permit,” or something else as silly. Not only did I refuse, but I challenged them to arrest me for taking photos with the clear intent of selling them.
I WON MY ISSUE at the administrative levels and obtained letters from both the Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service and the Dept. of Interior Park Service. Both letters were in may camera bag that was stolen in France last year, but I have them pretty much committed to memory. Both letters had text that read essentially as follows:
“Neither the equipment used nor the intended use of any photographs taken of or on public lands shall be of concern to department personnel.”
“Only the impact on the resource and the enjoyment of visitors shall be considered by department personnel with regard to decisions about photographing and filming. Permits and approval shall be obtained for any activities that disturb the resource, interfere with visitors enjoyment of facilities or require access to areas normally off limits. These activities would include road closures and any destruction or damage to habitat.”
“Not only should we allow filming and photographs on public lands, we should ENCOURAGE such activity as long as it is conducted in a manner consistent with general rules in place.”
The GUARDIAN notes it would be impossible to enforce prohibitions against teachers, scientists, students, tourists and others from realizing a “commercial gain” from photographs taken on or of public lands.
DAVID R. FRAZIER, editor
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