I was going to leave this as a Facebook post but when I saw people posting on LinkedIn that National Parks are going to start charge smart phone users to take cell phone snaps I lost it.
Several people have asked me why I wasn't in an uproar about the "news" that is spreading like wildfire throughout the internet that it was going to cost me $1500 for a permit to shoot on public land. Well that's because I knew that there was a lot of incorrect information being spread around. In this day and age of citizen journalism, very few people take the time to verify information and fact check. If they see it on the internet they figure it must be true, even if it was originally posted by someone who has no clue what they are talking about.
Fact is, permits for commercial photography (as defined) have long been required on federally owned land such as National Forests, and any responsible professional photographer is aware of the permit requirement. If you are doing a commercial shoot with models, actors or props, require access to an area where the public isn't generally permitted, or will cause additional administrative cost (think of the work required for a large movie film crew or to shoot a car commercial) you must get a permit to film. The proposal in question is to extend the same guidelines to congressionally designated Wilderness areas that are currently in place on National Forest lands. The current directive expires in October and only covered still photography, the proposal is to also include commercial filming (as it is on other federally owned lands). Designated Wilderness is not the same as National Forest, National Park, National Preserve or National Monument, and it's important to understand the different designations. Most designated wilderness areas do not even have motor vehicle access other than perhaps one main access road to a staging area/trailhead and the occasional legal cherry stem. Motorized/mechanical transport is not permitted in designated wilderness, not even bicycles.
The Forest Service issued a news release yesterday to help clarify all of the confusion which stated:
"The proposal does not change the rules for visitors or recreational photographers. Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs."
"Currently, commercial filming permit fees range around $30 per day for a group up to three people. A large Hollywood production with 70 or more people might be as much as $800. The $1,500 commercial permit fee cited in many publications is erroneous, and refers to a different proposed directive."
If you're still worried that this might affect you, I encourage you to take the time to read the directive yourself so you know the facts, not the hysteria. The public comment period has been extended to December 3, 2014.
(For what it's worth, you also need a permit for commercial photography on most California beaches, and Laguna is one of the most expensive. If you do portrait or wedding photography I hope you know that!).
Do your homework and check the facts before you add to the spread of bad information. Most bloggers, even on well-known photography sites, aren't paid enough to be bothered with fact checking and apparently editors don't care anymore. All they care about is getting people to click their link. Even mass media reports incorrect information when they "report" on topics for which they have no background knowledge.
These days you need to be more careful than ever before and verify information before you get caught up in the hysteria.