September 30, 2014

Wyden, Barrasso: Forest Service Photo Rule Must Not Trample First Amendment Rights

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., today called for the immediate withdrawal of a misguided U.S. Forest Service rule, which would require permits and fees – potentially up to $1,500 – from reporters and bloggers who take photographs or videos in wilderness areas.

In a joint letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Wyden and Barrasso wrote that the proposed rule clearly violates the Constitution’s First Amendment protections for press freedom.

“The proposed directive is a direct violation of American First Amendment rights and likely unconstitutional,” the senators wrote. “This creates a serious litigation risk for the Forest Service, while providing no clear benefits for wilderness management.”

Furthermore, the creation of a potentially expensive and burdensome permitting process for those who wish to document the beauty of natural places runs directly counter to the spirit of the Wilderness Act. It is especially galling that the agency would propose these rules on the 50th anniversary of that landmark law.

“These lands are meant to be enjoyed by all Americans, not kept from them,” Wyden and Barrasso wrote. “The ability to photograph, experience and learn about these places should not be unduly restricted.”

The full letter is available here.

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