Bush Administration trying to charge fees to photo and film on the public lands.

Now the Bush Administration wants to charge fees and require permits for people who commercially take photos or film in the national parks, national forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges.

This is another attempt to steal your rights to use your public land right out from under you, and also to prevent coverage of what is going on on the public lands. It is also a clear violation of your First Amendment Rights.

I can see a ranger asking you for your permit to photograph the pollution running out of oil well on the national forest.

– – – – –

Closely related to this new attempt to take away your natural rights as an American is the growing citizen movement to fight back against the RAT (Recreation Access Tax). Story: Turning Back the Clock to the Good Old Days. What the Baucus-Crapo Bill Does. New West by Bill Schneider.

Breaking story: Fees proposed by Bush Administration for filming and photography on public lands. By Les Blumenthal.


  1. skyrim Avatar

    They attempted to do just that a year or 2 ago in Yellowstone. Anyone remember that? I don’t recall what stopped it or if they just failed to enforce it.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This appears to be much more general — all public lands. That is 60% of the state of Idaho.

    Of course, we need to get an actual copy of this proposed rule.
    – – – –

    Note (later): it turns out not to include national forest lands. It’s all Department of Interior managed lands. The national forests are part of USDA.

  3. skyrim Avatar

    I would like to be the first to be prosecuted for shooting without a permit under this lame program. Think I could get little press on the deal?

  4. kt Avatar

    Here’s another article – but I sure can’t find the Interior proposal iitself. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho at the Helm — steering Interior more and more towards privatization of the public lands. Actually, Dirk just sits there and smiles and does what he is told by handlers.


  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    This is aimed at news gathering, of course. The Administration hates that, but what do you bet this is also aimed at those who take photos of range damage done by the friends of people like Senator Wide Stance?

    “You might sell that video of a field of cowpies? You owe the government a lot of money.”

    The House Democrats seem all upset about this, but when the bill to block the rule’s implementation goes to the Senate and the Republicans bark, leader of the Democratic Wolf Pack, Harry Reid, will probably turn over and pee on himself.

  6. kt Avatar

    Today, indeed, I think many people’s incredulity at how SPINELESS, FECKLESS and WORTHLESS Harry Reid is has reached a new low. There is no consistency. There is no Policy. The man is so conflicted (or the EAVESDROPPING Bushies have something so juicy on him that every time it looks like the Dems. might actually do something, they dial up ‘ol Harry and say “Hey, you know that crooked land deal you engineered??? For your buddy Harvey Whittemore of Coyote Springs fame or some Casino Owner??? We got the goods on you”. SO -CAVE AGAIN. By the way, Harry’s buddy Harvey just happens to hold a BLM grazing permit that Ely BLM is in the process of renewing.

    Well … Back to Interior charging for photos.

    Maybe Google Earth needs to be unleashed. After all – they have LOTS of photos of public lands u there on the InterNETS…

    Next up: Interior will charge an EXTRA fee for viewing its wonderfully cow and oil rig managed … errr… mangled … lands on-line on Google – or something.

    And Larry Craig and his new double/substitute Mike Crapo – Yes, these boys will do ANYTHING to protect the damage their rancher idols/icons do from being EXPOSED (that is a dangerous word, I know, to use in the same paragraph with Senator Widestance and his new double Mike) — to the world.

  7. Don Riley Avatar
    Don Riley


    Here is the location (Federal Register, Aug. 20,2007) of the proposed rule. Comment period is over.

    The rule appears to not be much different than the old rule of 2004. It does, however, make the rule the same for all agencies under DOI, which is not currently the case.

    It would appear that “Still Photography” (for which a permit is required) is that done with a still camera and it must be used in conjunction with props, models, lights…. for commercial purposes.

    I guess when I make an image of a bugling elk using a snoot flash extender and sell it to Bugle magazine, I need a permit, at least if I run into a real jerk type ranger. I don’t know.

    It appears to me that this is not a big deal to professional nature photographers who have operated under the 2004 regulations. There certainly have been abuses by over zealous and or ignorant officials and all photographers, pro to visitors, have experienced or heard of intances of taking pictures of “sensitive” buildings, dams, bridges………

    Net time you visit Vegas stop by Hoover dam and jump out with you brownie, it gets a rapid responce.

    That does not address the issue of free use (or at least a reasonalble fee) of our public lands which is going to be an issue for some time to come. Under the 2000 law, federal agencies pretty much have a free hand to charge as they want on public lands, in most cases by bureaucratic regulation fiat w/o the need for legislation.

    Thanks, Don. See below. RM

  8. kt Avatar

    And more regarding Wretched Reid … we can not forget both Harry’s long, crooked history of selling out public lands – like the SNWA Las Vegas water pipelines hitched onto a “wilderness bill” that facilitate aquifer mining of Great Basin National Park.

    Nor Harry Reid’s long time love affair with hard rock mining, especially the Nevada Gold mines that are poisoning the waters of Idaho, Utah and Nevada.

    I really do wonder what that new Bush-Gonzalez-implanted US Attorney in Nevada might be unearthing on ‘ol crooked Harry … making him more Under Their Thumb than ever before …

    Webmaster note: If you are reading or watching the general political news tonight, Harry’s Reid’s reputation is pretty low among most Democratic and progressive activists after a disastrous week. Read the Daily Kos, for example. Right now he’s selling us out on punished the telecom’s who were spying on us for Bush and Cheney.

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for looking it up Don, but that URL won’t work.

    This one should. http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/E7-15845.htm

    I found it at a photo web site.

    The comment period is closed as you say, but it is a proposed rule, not a final rule.

    Final rules can then be appealed and/or litigated. The exact number of steps varies.

    This can probably be delayed one way or the other into the next Administration.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Reading the regs, it looks to me that a major problem is the definition of “commercial” filming.

    It reads, “Commercial filming means the digital or film recording of a visual image or sound recording by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience, such as for a documentary, television or feature film, advertisement, or similar project. It does not include news coverage or visitor use.” [boldface mine]

    This could require a license and high fees from any group, or probably just one person, if it is ever sold, or if a fee charged even at cost? “Documentary” and “similar project” are also subject to an anti-free speech interpretations.

    “Visitors” are exempt, but who is a visitor? How fast do you have to move on? What if you return frequently like I do to a nearby public land and photograph the building of beaver ponds on a stream there?

  11. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    That was such an exciting read…… I have read this twice and it seems that it would only effect filming and still photog, but not “breaking news”, that uses a lot of equipment and a crew for assisting. But, it does not specify an exact number of persons. The number of folks allowed and where the filming will take place will be up to the discretion of FWS, NPS, etc.

    The government cannot collect royalties if the material/photographs are sold for a profit. That would fall under US Copyright Law. That’s because all those areas are “public domain”.
    If a photographer is working for the government, taking pictures for the gov. that would be “work for hire” and the gov would own the copyrights to those images.
    A freelance photog would hold the copyrights,which would require a fee per image, or a “limited use” agreement to use images for a specific purpose such as t-shirts, and would expire on a specific date.
    I am guessing if I went to YNP For example to shoot and had a “friend” to assist with lens changes, etc. and do not keep anyone from freely pursueing their happiness, that there would not be a problem.
    However, this should be watched closely as it seems the norm for sneeky little details to squeek by.

  12. Buffaloed Avatar

    I would imagine that this is also an attempt to shut down groups like WWP and BFC who depend on being able to document government abuse.

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I learned about this when an attorney emailed the story; so I think the implications were quickly seen.

  14. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    skyrim—-I would have to join you in your quest. I would gladly throw myself into the fray.

    I can’t imagine anything like this would ever go through. The government is really grasping at straws!! But with the amount of holes in the document it leaves too much open for interpretation and following, would be a multitude of lawsuits.

    Does anyone really think that this may become reality??

    Has anyone found additional info about this??

  15. sal Avatar

    Sounds like a “lame duck” administration trying to inflict as much damamge as it can before it leaves DC.

  16. tim sommers Avatar
    tim sommers

    just another way for the dumb ass to pay for his war i think he should be on the front line with are troops ,and Ho would want a name of what is between a women’s legs

  17. be Avatar

    the further monetized it gets, the more difficult it is to untangle.

    just think if public property were flexing/exercising property rights to protect and prioritize non-consumptive. instead they flip it ~ subsidize the extractive use, tax the benign ~

    these crooked ideologues are spreading efforts at progress thin ~ and staining our freedoms with their obstructive surcharges.

    don’t pay their fees ~ take each ticket and sent it to your senator.

  18. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    be, as always, offers astute observations: “…subsidize the extractive use, tax the benign…”

    That’s a keeper. 🙂

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own


  19. Phil Sonier Avatar

    I have been reading all the emails regarding video and still photography on public lands. It appears that Commercial Filming and Commercial Still Photography on public lands remains a ongoing question. Only a handful of the 10’s of thousands of photographers, professional and hobbiest alike, that visit and film/photograph the public lands will be directly affected. Please no more hypothetical statements, if this issue is so important, and I feel it is, than please remain factual. Laws regarding commercial filming and commercial still photography have been in place for years. The laws that Im currently aware of were put in place in 1990 and again in 2000. The laws in effect are: Public Law 106-206, 36CFR5.5, Natrional Park Service 1990 Letter. I know BLM required permits as far back as 10 years ago. That includes the Pryor Mountains. Tour operators on public lands, with photographers and the like in tow, are required to pay a fee and have liability insurance. I have paid a fee/permit to photograph in Denali NP since the early 90’s. Can anybody in the group actually spell out the differences from the laws in effect vs the new law(s)?. Please let me know as I cant see anything that directly affects me as a photographer. I am not a Commercial photographer but would not mind being one from an income standpoint. I believe I can still have my photos in magazines, and other areas of sales. I think the existing laws are clear as to who and what constitutes a commercial film maker or commercial still photographer from a Visitor. Im not a lawyer or lawmaker but I think Section 5.3 of the new law explations Commercial and Visitor quite clearly. Ialso believe its all a part of doing business in todays world. As defined, millions of dollars can be made in commercial filmmaking and commercial still photography. As taxpayers we should get a bit of that back thru fees as it costs the government dollars to maintain and provide the services we need (not necessarily expect) from our public lands. Hopefully I have not stepped on too many toes with my thoughts. Merry Christmas.

  20. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Phil Sonier—-You said “no more hypothetical statements”, but those what if’s are just a sign as to how many holes are in that document. If persons who are not artists are coming up with hypothetical scenarios, think of what a professional artist might be asking. Asking speculative questions are important especially when there is a lack of details.
    ***The copyright info i posted is factual.*** My attorney specializes is artist issues and copyright law, is one of the top of his field in the nation. As a freelance painter and photographer i do not agree with you that i should be taxed because i sell my photos. As a taxpayer i already contribute to maintain and provide services from my public lands. Not only would i be paying state tax and federal tax, but then an additional fee/tax on my income because my photos are taken on public land. What about the artist that paints photo-realism? Also, there are fees i have to pay to the US Copyright office to register my work to have gauranteed legal protection by the government, so if someone infringes on my copyrights i am guaranteed to recover my legal fees and all other expenses from that someone.
    The livestock industry actually destroys my public lands and is not responsible for fixing that damage. Neither do the ranchers pay an additional tax because they benefit monetarily from grazing their cattle on public land. My tax money goes to clean up their mess. They also get tax breaks and reimbursements for various and perceived ‘inconveniences’ i.e. wolves, bison, etc.
    I leave no trace.
    YNP is my favorite park to visit, I go there to get away from the world and simply enjoy nature. So if I take my camera along am i a visiter or am i there for business???
    To many facters are left open to the discretion of whomever is in charge of a particular area.
    Should everyone who derives income, whether directly or indirectly from public lands pay additional fees and/or taxes??
    Just some things to think about…..

  21. Phil Sonier Avatar

    Bailey Hill—Your response is both interesting and confusing to me. I have tried to stay on track and address only the issue of the bill in my email and not other side issues. I have re- read the proposed law several times over this evening to make sure Im not accidently leaving out a paragraph or statement in the bill that covers, addresses, or implies the legalities of image ownership, royalties, or copyright infringement for photographer or artist as addressed in your response to my email and covered in your previous email. Im trying to understand how being a artist/photographer places you or me in the commercial filmaking or commercial still photography category. As a professional photographer I do not see my work meeting the specific criteria addressed in several locations of the bill as “Commercial”. Im not a lawyer and I assume a lawyer can argue anything depending which side of the case is being represented. Section 5.3, page 46431 of the bill defines which still photography requires a permit. Upon reading, and re-reading it, without assumptions, it appears the proposed law is trying to address the professional movie companies/film makers and advertising agencies in a consistant manner between the differing federal land uses not presently addressed in a like manner. What part of those definitions address the day-to-day artist/photographer like us?? If you could help me by picking out those words in the bill I would greatly appreciate it.I wont discuss your response to taxes or land use as it is clear that our opinions differ to a degree and do not want to enter into a debate. I will say however that many (many)will pay thousands of dollars to game farms, preserves, and tour operators, year in and year out, to gather reference/filming, and still photography of captive animals and/or landscapes, for commercial and non-commercial use, and not think twice about paying for it, but are possibly reluctant to pay for use of the lands and wildlife in our parks, refuges, etc. that we can all benifit from. Does that make sense?? When I photograph on privately owned land/livestock,etc. I pay them a fee even if they dont require it. Its just good and fair business practice. Costs are incurred whether privately or publically owned/operated. I also find it interesting that a handful of commercial film and commercial still photographers are possibly able to rally their cause through the majority of non-commercial folks (defined as visitors). If Im right, I fall under the “Visitor” category of the bill. If you are indeed a “commercial” artist/photographer as defined in the bill, and I gather you believe you are, than I agree, you do have some possible concerns, and you should rally your cause with vigor. Again….Merry Christmas

  22. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Phil Sonier—Just to let you know first off, I am only intersted in amiable discussion. When i said “just some things to think about”, that was only because the issues I mentioned directly relate to the proposal , because it has too many gray areas that need to be addressed in order to prevent abuse from both officials{especially those who are responsible for seeing that the guidelines are followed}, and artists too, and what I mentioned previously.
    I am a full-time working artist and my business is classified as a “sole-proprietorship”. This is the only work I do. It is not a hobby. The proposal guidelines that will be used to determine the need for permit or not, leave too much open for interpretation. I will give one example: page 41631, 5.3, item 3., 4., i., ii.,iii. ; basically says that if it is determined that a ranger has to be present to ensure safety of visitors a fee will have to be paid to cover the costs of having a ranger supervise. I will use a “bear jam” for example. A griz is walking near the road everyone stops and pulls out their cameras, video recorders, tripods etc., There are two rangers there to keep the bear safe and the public safe. They stay until everyone is gone and they keep track of the bear in case it comes back to the road. People are stupid and will approach bears to have a photo taken with the bear. I have even seen people chase after grizzlys. Should the crowd of folks pay a fee for being supervised or kept safe while they got out of their cars to take photos? or maybe just the people with the huge setups as they might be professionals? Or does the entrance fee to the park cover that service? I understand all the reasons a production company/film maker would need to held liable for any damage that may happen regardless if its an accident or intentional. They would need to leave the area in the original or better condition from when they started. My concern is for the folks who are professionals that are self-employed. There is much that needs to be elaborated on if this is going to be enforced. Everything else is vague, with the exception of a company and crew. I am not being a smart ass. These are serious questions that need to be addressed for the working artist. If this was only a hobby and not my business, I would probably not be concerned.
    Just know that i am not trying to argue. I enjoy having discussions whether like minded or not.
    I am not saying that anyone should rally a cause through the non-commercial folks. But I know people who would come up with that and be serious about it.
    I have found that when I photographed on private property, what they really appreciated more than anything was when I promised to come back with a framed photo.
    I don’t photograph captive animals, i enjoy the serendipitous happenings in natural conditions. Or rather as natural as anything could be these days.
    I am not sure if i answered all your questions, as i have had a really long day. So feel free to ask.
    And ditto on the Merry Christmas.

  23. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    PS just remembered something. One of my other concerns is how will the fee be determined once the permit is issued. Should it be a flat fee or based on the size of the company and number of employees that will be present?
    good night…