National Forest Service to Fine Unlicensed Photography

The National Forest Service announced recently that it is considering regulations to restrict the photography of “government-owned” natural beauty to those photographers who have paid a $1500 registration fee. Unregistered photographers could be fined by the National Forest Service:

If the plans are finalized in November, any media with a camera, even a simple cell phone camera, will have to purchase a permit from the Forest Service if they plan on taking photographs in places like Mount Hood orMount Jefferson, permits that can cost nearly $1500. If they refuse, they risk being fined $1000 for the infraction. As you can imagine, this has given photographers everywhere a reason for concern.

This is absurd on so many levels. For one, does the National Forest Service really own the rights to photographing this land? The idea itself seems absurd. Second, don’t Americans pay taxes for the upkeep of all this land? So, in a sense, we are already paying for photographic rights. Third, what the heck?!

I understand that budget cuts and tightening belts has made life difficult for the National Forest Service and similar public trusts, but I think these kinds of dramatic over-reactions are absurd. Do you remember when they shut down park services during the sequester? I suspect a similar power play is afoot here. We are suffering! If you get Congress to raise our budgets, we won’t charge photographers a registration fee anymore. Hogwash.

I’m sure that like so many other government-funded public services, the National Forest Service wastes very much of its budget and could survive on much less. Further, if they were cut entirely from the budget, and oversight of the forests was turned over to a private management company, I can almost guarantee that the overall efficiency and beauty of the parks would go up, and the overall cost to the public would go down. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

In the mean time, click away photographers. And I want to see artists lining the roads painting landscapes as well. And don’t you dare pay a single fine.