This week’s most profoundly wrongheaded display of nonviolent press infringement comes from an unlikely source: The U.S. Forest Service. New rules being finalized in November state that—across this country’s gloriously beautiful, endlessly photogenic, 36 million acres of designated wilderness area administered by the USFS—members of the press who happen upon it will need permits to photograph or shoot video.
And yes, it does sound like one of the dumbest things you’ve ever read.
“It’s pretty clearly unconstitutional,” said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Alexandria, Va. “They would have to show an important need to justify these limits, and they just can’t.”
Wait! It gets better.
[Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director] didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.
The slap you just heard was of more than 34 million American hikers hitting palm to forehead. And the clicks you heard came from nature photographers from coast to coast ignoring those new rules. [read]