March 25, 2015
Contact: OWAA President Mark Freeman
Below is a letter that was sent last week to the leadership of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding permits for filming on public lands.
We’ll continue to keep you apprised of any actions we take on this issue.
– Mark Freeman
March 17, 2015
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chair
Senator Maria Cantwell, Ranking Member
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senators Murkowski and Cantwell,
I am writing on behalf of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), the nation’s oldest and largest association of outdoor communicators, in reference to the Committee on Energy & Natural Resources’ consideration of S. 556, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.
OWAA has been following the issue of permits for filming on public lands with great interest. Of particular interest to us is Sec. 102, of S.556, the provision for requiring $200 annual fees for any commercial film crews of five people or less.
The issue of requiring permits for filming in federally designated wilderness areas surfaced most recently in November 2014 with the U.S. Forest Service proposed rulemaking. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell asked OWAA leadership to offer comments about the proposed rule in both a telephone conference call and in writing.
Our concerns were that language intended to require permits among movie crews and commercial advertisement creation appeared improperly to include OWAA members and other working journalists with First Amendment protections. We gave Chief Tidwell reasons for why we believe it would be proper and prudent for the rule’s language specifically to exempt working outdoor and environmental journalists in the filming and information gathering process for airing and printing articles and segments about issues involving these lands.
The comments included proposed wording that specifically defines working journalists who would be exempt from the permitting process when conducting specific activities in wilderness areas. In a subsequent letter to Forest Service employees on how he wants his agency to apply such rules, Chief Tidwell incorporated many of our points and specifically made reference to OWAA’s input on the matter.
The issues involving wilderness areas and public lands as outlined in S. 556 are nearly identical, and the groundwork on how to grapple with the definitions involved in the Act’s Sec. 102 already has been laid.
Attached are our comments to Chief Tidwell, his letter to Forest Service employees and an OWAA position paper on the issue. We are offering them as an opportunity to move forward the conversation of this portion of the legislation.
Mark Freeman, President
Reporter/Columnist, Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon