Tester, Walsh to Forest Service: Respect First Amendment

Senators call on agency to clarify permitting proposal to protect free press

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are calling on the Forest Service to withdraw a proposed restriction that could limit the press from getting needed information to the public.

The Forest Service is coming under fire for a proposal to require the media to get special, costly permits to photograph or shoot video on federal public wilderness lands. Tester and Walsh say the proposal could prevent the media from reporting on issues of public interest.

“We have grave concerns and are deeply skeptical of the government putting limits on activity protected under the First Amendment,” Tester and Walsh said. “We urge you to withdraw and redraft the directive in a way that addresses these concerns by not subjecting the press to this proposed permitting process.”

Permits, which the agency could deny, would cost up to $1,500. Violating the rule would lead to a $1,000 fine.

With the public outcry growing, the Forest Service today said it will delay finalizing the rule. In their letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Tester and Walsh call for the rule to be withdrawn and redrafted after consulting with stakeholders. They also called for at least 90 days of public comment when the proposed rule is reissued.

“It is vital that the Forest Service ensures that any final rule does not impede the press’ ability to gather and disseminate information to the public,” the Senators wrote.

The proposed rule would have required permits for filming and photography by media companies, commercial outfits, non-profit organizations and even the public.

Tester and Walsh’s letter is available below.



Tester and Walsh letter to Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell by senatortester