On the day before many of us will be celebrating our nation's outdoor heritage through observation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, several stories passed across the news desk that could impact our public lands.
Earlier this week, for example, the National Forest Services announced it was planning on tightening restrictions on media coverage across many of the nation's wild lands. They're talking a fee-based permit and permission before shooting a video or photo in a federally designated wilderness area.
Those permits, according to Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers will cost up to $1,500 and shooting without one could mean a $1,000 fine. Already reporters and First Amendment advocates are up in arms, saying the permit is nothing more than a thinly-veiled way to prohibit the production of anything other than positive stories about our wild lands.
In response, a Forest Service official says the restrictions have been in place "on a temporary basis" for the past four years and are designed to "preserve the untamed character of the country's wilderness."
The statement included no real-life examples of why the policy was needed -or what problems needed addressing. Nor any record of media outlets having applied for a permit over the past four years.
It may sound far-fetched, but a program like this could mean a wilderness visitor who snapped a photo using a smartphone and later posted it on a personal blog could be considered a "media outlet" and face a $1000 fine.
That prompted U.S. Senator Ron Wyder (D-Oregon) to encourage the agency to "tread more carefully" and "rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a burdensome permitting process for something as simple as taking a picture with a cellphone."
Wyder says the policy "raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment."
Yesterday, the Outdoor Writers Association of America issued a strongly-worded criticism of the Forest Service announcement. You can read that -and Forest Service head Tom Tidwell's pledge to uphold the First Amendment under this directive in today's Top Story position.
If you'd like to comment on the proposal, https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/04/2014-21093/proposed-directive-for-commercial-filming-in-wilderness-special-uses-administration?utm_campaign=email+a+friend&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov
>you can do so here.
Unfortunately, no need to comment on this little piece of news....
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals- PETA- is trying to play tag-along with National Hunting & Fishing Day. Yesterday, I received a press release telling me that hunters and anglers who are planning on participating in National Hunting and Fishing Day had "best beware: PETA could be watching."
Yep, it seems the PETA folks have taken the "success" of their Air Angels hobby drones (if you call being prosecuted for harassing people and animals a "success") to a new low-underwater.
PETA's apparently gotten new "angler watcher" drones using "submersible technology" so "all anglers who cast a line of cruelty on Fish Amnesty Day (apparently PETA has that day coinciding with National Hunting & Fishing Day- I missed marking it on my calendar) should consider themselves forewarned."
I promise I'm not making this stuff up.
"We plan to try out our new submersible drones in lakes, rivers, and oceans to ensure that anglers are following all the local laws," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in the release. "The drones will also help document the cruelty inherent in fishing-showing how fish suffer when they're hooked and thrown back into the water injured and how other unsuspecting wildlife are ensnared by lines, nets, lures, and other equipment that gets lost or stuck under the water."
They're also deploying "Air Angels" volunteers to document hunters committing cruel or illegal acts also being deployed tomorrow using their aerial drones.
As usual, PETA's not announcing where they'll be deploying their new "Aquatic Angels" but are warning everyone that participating in the "sport" of hunting or fishing and killing animals may
be having their actions recorded.
Being the owner of a drone, I am uncertain as to how these folks think they're going to sneak up on anyone. The drones approved for recreational use are anything but quiet or stealthy. And when hovering they're absolutely the $1000 equivalent of sitting ducks. But I have to give them credit, having "volunteers" flying the PETA drones is one way to slide around the FAA restrictions on commercial applications of drones.
If you're out this weekend observing "our" holiday and you happen to see PETA folks, do me a favor. Shoot a photo and shoot it to me - I'd be curious to see how many people they've managed to turn out to spoil a weekend dedicated to the people who contribute the majority of funding used to protect our wildlife and wild lands. You can send them to me at email@example.com
. We'll share them next week- if anyone actually sees a "PETAn".
There were plenty of other news items happening in the past 24 hours, but on the eve of National Hunting & Fishing Day, we want to encourage everyone to get out tomorrow and enjoy the outdoors....and take someone else along if possible.