I know that it’s silly to assign values of good and evil to various government agencies, but I swear, sometimes those agencies really go out of their way to make you decide. And no, I’m not talking about the NSA who seem to actively delight in seeming evil and are probably reading this blog post right now. No, today my ire is directed at the U. S. Forest Service due to their new plan to charge a $1000 fine for taking pictures in a Federal Wilderness without a permit.
Don’t worry, though. The permits are a bargain: only $1500. I’m certain that won’t affect any student filmmakers or struggling photographers or, really, anyone else who might be operating on a tight budget. Hell, I’ve got $1500 in my back pocket right now.
Forest Service spokesperson Larry Chambers told the Oregonian that permits will cost up to $1,500, and those caught so much as taking an iPhone photo without clearance will be fined $1,000. Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, told the Oregonian that the restrictions are following the Wilderness Act of 1964, which is meant to preserve the untamed character of the wilderness and prevent it from being used for commercial gain.
So, that sucks. But it gets even
The Forest Service would make exceptions for breaking news that “arises suddenly, evolves quickly, and rapidly ceases to be newsworthy.”
Beyond the media, the rule would apply to anyone who might use the photos or video to make money while in a wilderness area, be it a documentary film crew, nonprofit, or private citizen.
Sure, you could argue that it’s “only” recognized wilderness areas and not actually “all of nature.” On the other hand, I’m willing to bet that most people have no idea whether the outdoorsy area they’re in at any given moment is considered a wilderness area or not. And speaking as someone who does usually know and has a particular favorite wilderness area, the idea that it’s a finable offense is infuriating!
Oh, but the permit is only required for pictures used for commercial purposes, you say? Well, that should fucking solve it for everyone, won’t it. Wait, is this blog a commercial purpose? Is my picture of a creek that I took four years ago indicative of a violation? I don’t actually make any money doing this blog, but I’m also working on publishing a book, so there’s a very real chance that in a year or so this blog will have a commercial purpose. What happens then?
(Actually, it still wouldn’t be a violation since I took that picture in a State Park, but would you know that by looking at it?)
Maybe I’m overreacting. Certainly, we can trust the Forest Service agency not to abuse this authority to go after people for taking pictures of trees or . . .
I’m sorry, I can’t even manage good sarcasm right now. This is well and truly a shitty thing. We come full circle to my earlier assessment: the Forest Service is evil.
For what it’s worth, I consider the Parks Service to be their good counterpart. So there’s that.