Greg Walden to Forest Service: Respect the First Amendment, reconsider permitting rules for journalists

September 25, 2014
Press Release

Greg Walden to Forest Service: Respect the First Amendment, reconsider permitting rules for journalists 


HOOD RIVER, Ore. — U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today wrote to the U.S. Forest Service expressing concern over a proposal that would require journalists to apply for an expensive permit before shooting any photographs or video in a wilderness area. The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Chief Tidwell:

I write to express my concerns with recent reports that the U.S. Forest Service’s “Proposed Directive for Commercial Filming in Wilderness” would require journalists to apply for a permit before being allowed to shoot any video or photographs in wilderness areas. I continue to hear from constituents across Oregon’s Second District who feel the Forest Service continues to go overboard in limiting access to our public lands, including national forests and wilderness areas, and these new reports are just the latest example of access to our public lands being further restricted. Furthermore, I am very concerned about the implications this has for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press.

It is also very troubling that journalists could be held to different standards at the discretion of the issuing officer depending on the content of their stories and its relevance to wilderness activity. I have long worked on public land issues and am very concerned to hear the Forest Service may be granting or limiting access based on political calculations. A majority of Oregon’s land is controlled by the federal government and nearly 50 wilderness areas are located within the state. This presence often makes management decisions and other activities that occur on public land, including those wilderness areas, newsworthy items for the press – regardless of whether the story “[disseminates] information about the use or enjoyment of wilderness” as outlined in this proposal.  Anything less than full transparency in public land management activities is unacceptable. 

Please provide the statute and specific legislative text that authorizes the Forest Service to base wilderness filming permit guidelines around the applicability of the content produced to the purpose of wilderness, and what the Forest Service has done to ensure that any of its proposed rules do not violate freedom of the press rights under the First Amendment.

Thank you for your prompt response.


Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District


Click here for the signed copy of the letter.