From the Bush Administration and the National Park Service, the folks who brought us the USA Patriot Act and invoked it to prevent me from taking pictures of Blue Ridge Parkway Rangers harassing attendees at FloydFest this past summer, comes a new wrinkle on taking photos on federal park land.
The Park Service, with the blessing of the White House, has proposed "new rules governing photography, news gathering, and filmmaking in federal parks." Simply put, the new rules would give Park officials, including Park Rangers, broad authority in prohibiting photography and would set fees to taking photos for news or commercial purposes.
This, as you might expect, does not sit well with those of us who use our cameras to make a living. Tony Overton, President of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), testified before Congress on the move and said:
There’s no reason to limit any kind of photography if the act of taking the image or film does not disturb the public use of a public area. For many years, the Department of Interior did not restrict news photography on public land or require photojournalists to submit to a fee-and-permit process. The new rules would require many photographers to pay a fee, receive a permit, and submit to significant conditions before being allowed to photograph on public land.
Last summer, a Park Ranger from the Parkway’s Criminal Interdiction Team based in Asheville, NC, threatened me with arrest if I photographed him searching the car of young people on their way to FloydFest. Park Officials later denied the incident occurred and said photography was not restricted on the Parkway.