Newly tightened restrictions on media coverage in the U.S.’s wild lands will require that reporters pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.
The rules, established by the U.S. Forest Service, will be finalized in November.
Under the revised rules, a reporter would need special approval to shoot photos or videos on even an iPhone in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness.
Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, said the restrictions have been in place on a temporary basis for four years. Close noted that the rules are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.
As reported by Oregon Live, Close did not know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.
According to Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, permits cost up to $1,500; reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.
First Amendment advocates object to the rules, arguing that they ignore press freedoms and are so vague that they could allow the Forest Service room to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.
“It’s pretty clearly unconstitutional,” said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Alexandria, Va.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, stated that “The Forest Service needs to rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a burdensome permitting process for something as simple as taking a picture with a cell phone.”
“Especially where reporters and bloggers are concerned, this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment,” Wyden said.
The rules allow exceptions only for breaking news coverage of events like fires and rescues.