Lawmakers blast Forest Service’s media rules

Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation are criticizing new rules from the United States Forest Service that restrict photography and video in national forests.

Following a report that photos and videos would require a $1,500 permit, lawmakers said the rules were unnecessary and an overreaching restriction on First Amendment rights, according to the Salem, Ore., Statesman Journal.

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“This seems like a fairly ridiculous overreach by the Forest Service,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) told the newspaper. “I understand the need to protect our wilderness areas from commercial exploitation, but this is just silly.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R) wrote to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell, saying “anything less than full transparency in public land management activities is unacceptable,” the Statesman Journal said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the rule “is vague and could have a major impact on the way the media captures, documents, and promotes our public lands.”

DeFazio said he would soon draft a letter complaining about the policy to the Forest Service and seek bipartisan agreement on the letter.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D) said 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.”

The Forest Service said it is extending the comment period on the rules until early December, a month longer than it had planned.

Spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement that the rules are “a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild places.”