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Bill Would Bring Film Permitting On Public Lands Into The YouTube Era

A smart phone is set up on a tripod at dawn overlooking the Lower Falls at Artist Point in Yellowstone.
Jacob W. Frank

Some YouTubers and Instagram influencers recently found an unlikely champion in a Republican lawmaker.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso introduced a bill Friday that would waive fees and permits for content creators to film on federal public lands and in national parks.

“The FILM Act will streamline the permitting process for filming on public lands,” Barrasso said in a statement. “It gives outdoorsmen and women the ability to share their adventures without having to deal with burdensome red tape.”

As it stands, a 2000 law says people who make money from videos or photographs taken on federal public lands have to get a permit and pay a fee to the government.

In fiscal year 2019, the National Park Service earned nearly $400,000 from these permits, according to E&E News. But in February, the agency suspended those requirements after a federal judge ruled the original law was a violation of the First Amendment.

Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, says Barrasso’s legislation would update that law.

“It takes [fee requirements] away from the casual content producer or influencer as long as they are within certain guidelines,” she said.

Under Barrasso's bill filmers would still need to obtain a permit if their production crew is bigger than 10 or if they are shooting in a way that disturbs wildlife, resources or other visitors.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.