PUBLIC LANDS -- This may be the most bizarre public lands news I've read in a long time. The U.S. Forest Service has adopted rules scheduled to go into effect in November requiring news media to have a $1,500 permit before shooting photos or video in designated wilderness areas.
- See details on this story from the Oregonian.
This is alarming to First Amendment watchdogs, but it's also a wake-up call to advocates of public lands.
Who's the media -- Your friend or foe? A New York Times reporter? A friendly hiking guidebook author? A blogger? A Facebook poster celebrating a great trip to the Glacier Peak Wilderness?
First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they'd allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.
The rules in another fashion actually have been in effect for years, but rarely enforced.
A notable exception: The Forest Service's previous rules caused a fuss in 2010, when the agency refused to allow an Idaho Public Television crew into a wilderness area to film student conservation workers. The agency ultimately caved to pressure from Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.
The National Park Service takes a different stance, requiring permits only for commercial filming and photography.
The Forest Service is accepting public comment on its bizarre proposal here.