It turns out that the photos WC took fly fishing for steelhead on the upper Situk River, just below its exit from from Situk Lake, may be a violation of the law. And the photos WC took of his buddy, the federal lawyer, with Denali in the background may be unlawful. The photos in Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wildernesses in Oregon, while hiking the Pacific Crest Scenic Trail, with WC’s former girlfriend posed prettily by Belknap Crater may be illegal. The photos made chasing the Grey-headed Chickadee along the Marsh Fork of the Canning River with a guided tour may be hot. Even the photos of the Great Grey Owlet WC wrote about back in July were taken in violation of the Forest Service’s silly, silly rules.
What all those photos have in common is that they were taken in Wilderness Areas, and WC used them for “commercial purposes” and didn’t have a permit from the U.S. Forest Service.
Some of the photos were sold; the one of the federal lawyer against Denali was even a magazine cover. Others have appeared in this blog; because they were, you know, nature photography for a “commercial purpose.” Liike selling photos.
It’s actually more complicated than that. Different federal agencies administer different wilderness areas. If the wilderness area is in a national forest, like the Russell Fjord Wilderness Area that includes Situk Lake, since that’s in Tongass National Forest, the Forest Service has jurisdiction and its rules and regulations apply. The shot of WC’s federal lawyer friend against Denali is in Denali National Park Wilderness, so the National Park Service and its different rules and regulations apply. WC’s photos from St. Lazaria Wilderness, on the other hand, are subject to the still different rules and regulations imposed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Forest Service and the National Park Service seem to be the most excitable about htis issue. The Forest Service, attempting to defend its proposed revised rules, reportedly said the Forest Service was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain. “It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” said Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”
WC doubts very much that Congress, in adopting the Wilderness Act in 1964, was worried about WC photographing or videotaping while backpacking or fly fishing in wilderness areas and writing about it. Or about the frustrating exercise of figuring out who supervises a given wilderness area, and then what that agency’s rules are, all at jeopardy for a $1,000 fine for getting it wrong.
WC likes and admires Carl Johnson, but his comments over on The Mudflats are a serious oversimplificiation of both the problems of different agencies having different standards and the proposed permanent changes to Forest Service rules. In its zeal to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, the Forest Service has ijured itself and the very concept of stewardship of wilderness.
WC urges you to write to the Forest Service and tell it not to engage in this damnfoolishness. At least not until it has coordinated its rules with its sister agencies, so they are all the same. And to make the requirement for any permit related to a risk of harm to the wilderness involved.
When WC was a pup, he was taught to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. Now it turns out you can’t take photographs. At least not without the government’s permission.
The irony is that today is National Public Lands Day. But maybe only with a permit.