A federal agency under fire from free speech advocates and nature enthusiasts says it has absolutely no intention of charging people to take pictures on public land. The head of the U.S. Forest Service Thursday clarified a rule that’s been generating charges of government overreach.
“There's no way that our proposal will infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights,” says Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell.
Tidwell says journalists and the public will not be required to get a permit or pay a $1,500 fee to bring their cameras into wilderness areas.
“If anything in this proposal even indicates that, we need to change that,” he adds.
Back in 2010, the Forest Service barred Idaho Public Television from shooting an educational segment in the Frank Church Wilderness. The government reversed that decision. Tidwell says the agency is now trying to clarify its rules to avoid another such situation.
But the new rules had been interpreted by broadcasters to require approval and permitting even for some amateur photographers.
Tidwell says the rule is meant to only apply to commercial filmmakers shooting movies or ads, and photographers who bring in extensive props and sets.
The Forest Service has extended the public comment period to Dec. 3. It’s setting up a series of public meetings to discuss the rule and how it could be improved.
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