The $1,000 Forest Service fine will not impact recreational photographers or journalists

Megan Fischer

The proposal for requiring permits and charging fines for commercial photographers to shoot on United States Forest Service lands has sparked concern among the media community.

In September, the United States Forest Service issued a proposal to the Federal Registrar to charge for the commercial photography and video taken on National Forest Service Lands. The proposal is still under a commentary period until the beginning of November.


A hiking trail in Boulder, CO which is close to Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, which are regulated by the United States Forest Service and could be impacted by the Forest Service's new proposal. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)
A hiking trail in Boulder, Colorado which is close to Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, both regulated by the United States Forest Service. They would be impacted by the Forest Service’s new proposal. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)

According to Peter Seel, a Department of Journalism and Media Communications professor at Colorado State University, the proposal for the policy was poorly written and received a negative reaction from the public.

“They didn’t realize how much backlash they were going to have,” Seel said.

According to Steven Weiss, a JMC coordinator, this backlash comes from the proposed policy being so restrictive.

“It more has to do with the freedom to do it rather than the money,” Weiss said. “The money is an eye-catching thing that jumps out at you.”

According to Weiss, concern over the proposal could also come from it being viewed as “big brother” issue, as the policy suggests more government regulation of what citizens can and cannot do.

In a news release given Sept. 25 from the U.S. Forest Service chief, the chief reassured that First Amendment rights would be upheld in the new directive to charge for commercial film and photography.

“The fact is, the directive pertains to commercial photography and filming only – if you’re there to gather news or take recreational photographs, no permit would be required. We take your First Amendment rights very seriously,” stated Tom Tidwell, U.S. forest service chief, in the press release.

Journalists should not be concerned, according to Seel, as it is in the Constitution of the United States that Congress cannot make a law abridging the freedom of speech or the press.

“Visuals are a huge part of storytelling,” Weiss said. ” We shouldn’t have those types of restrictions … I don’t expect it to affect future journalists.”

The commentary period for the proposal is open until Nov. 3. The commentary form for the proposal and can be found here.


Collegian Campus Beat Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at or on Twitter @MegsFischer04.