Forest Service extends comment period on commercial filming permits in wilderness areas

Posted at 3:30 PM, Sep 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-29 08:57:02-04

The U.S. Forest Service has extended its public comment on a proposed directive requiring fees and permits for commercial photography and filming on congressionally designated wilderness areas.

When announced Sept. 4, the proposal was widely misinterpreted to mean the fees would pertain to news photography and amateur photography as well. John Haynes, with U.S. Forest Service media relations, said the confusion has caused the public comment period to be extended from Nov. 3 to Dec. 3.

“The way it appeared in the proposed directive was a bit vague,” Haynes said.

Haynes said the policy isn’t new, and that the U.S. Forest Service is essentially proposing a clarification of an existing regulation that requires a commercial filming permit of $30 a day for a group of three people on federally designated wilderness areas, up to $800 a day for a large Hollywood production with 70 or more people.

“The fee system does not apply to news-gathering organizations or recreational photographers who just want to go out and get photos,” Haynes said. “It strictly applies to commercial photography and filming.”

In a recent news release, the Forest Service emphasized that the proposed directive pertains only to designated wilderness areas it manages. In East Tennessee, there are 11 such areas scattered throughout the Cherokee National Forest.

Haynes said other lands within the national forest system such as grasslands have separate policies for photography and film making.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Wilderness designation is reserved for federal lands with outstanding scenic and ecological value. The areas are off-limits to logging, road building and mining, but open to traditional recreational activities such as hunting and hiking.