- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The U.S. Forest Service plans to finalize new regulations in November that would require reporters to obtain expensive permits to take pictures in federally maintained wildlife areas.

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, told The Oregonian on Tuesday that the move simply seeks keep wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements,” Ms. Close said of the U.S. Forest Service’s rationale that media permits are needed to be in compliance with the Wilderness Act of 1964.

If the restrictions are finalized in November, then any “wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness” would need approval before capturing images on the federal lands in question, the paper reported.

“It’s pretty clearly unconstitutional,” said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Alexandria, Virginia, The Oregonian reported. “They would have to show an important need to justify these limits, and they just can’t.”

The paper said that in its questioning of Ms. Close that she did not give any concrete reasons why such a policy was needed.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers also told the paper that reporters who did not obtain proper permits could face fines of up to $1,000. Exceptions to the rules are currently made for breaking news stories, such as forest fires or rescue operations.

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