Under fire from free speech advocates and nature enthusiasts, the U.S. Forest Service, said Thursday it has absolutely no intention of charging people to take pictures on public land.
Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell wanted to make one thing perfectly clear.
“There's no way that our proposal will infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights,” he said.
Tidwell said 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 said.
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 said 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 said 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 December 3. It’s setting up a series of public meetings to discuss the rule and how it could be improved.