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Posts published in “Day: September 29, 2014”

Rules gone wild

idaho RANDY

Federal agencies heavily involved in regulation and rule making aggravate enough people in the normal and proper course of their work that the last thing they need is to go out of their way, in an incompetent fashion at that, to aggravate even more.

Meet the U.S. Forest Service, and its rules on photography in wilderness areas.

The Forest Services regulates wilderness areas around the country – many of them in the Northwest – and are supposed to do that with the purpose of wilderness in mind: Preservation of lands in a natural state, where people can visit but not stay and not leave behind traces of their visits. That means no human goods left behind, and no damage done to the areas.

The USFS has managed this job in many ways, some sound and some questionable. But restricting photography – the taking of still or video pictures with the use of hand-held camera equipment – in those areas wouldn't realistically occur to most people as damaging to the wild character of wilderness.

Last week reports – based mainly in the Northwest but spread rapidly around the country – noted that an obscure forest rule required permits for photography in wilderness areas. Well, some photography. Under some conditions. The gray area here is vast. The weirdly vague rule is up for possible permanent adoption later this year.

An initial Forest Service email described it this way: "All organizations ... including private citizens planning to use produced material to raise funds, sell a product, or otherwise realize compensation in any form (including salary during the production) are subject to review."

Including vacationers, and news reporters, apparently.
After the media explosion, Service Chief Tom Tidwell replied, “To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities. . . . Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props."

Except that, in Idaho and Oregon at least, it turns out that news organizations (notably public television stations) have been either stopped from filming in wilderness areas or threatened with penalties if they did.

Salem Statesman Journal reporter Zach Urness, writing this weekend, noted that interpretations of the rule seemed to vary widely among Forest Service officials at various local and national levels. It does seem to open photography in the case of “breaking news,” though the definition attached to that term is also vaporous and open to abuse. (more…)

In the Briefings


 Another six pontoons for the new State Route 520 floating bridge are floating out of their Aberdeen casting basin September 26, marking completion of the fifth of six cycles of pontoons being built in Grays Harbor County. With this float-out, 66 of the new bridge’s 77 pontoons have been constructed, and 57 are on Lake Washington. The three remaining Aberdeen pontoons are scheduled for completion next spring. Forty-four of the bridge’s supplemental pontoons are being built in Tacoma, where work is underway on the final construction cycle there. Meanwhile, crews continue aligning, anchoring and bolting together pontoons on Lake Washington. The new, six-lane floating bridge – the longest in the world – is scheduled to open to traffic in spring 2016. (photo/Department of Transportation)

Few developments this week in Washington politics – at least among the candidates for office. The battle over initiatives (especially the two gun initiatives) seems to be generating more heat than the people are.

Federal lands issues were big last week. In Oregon, fires roared back, and Bureau of Land Management Sally Jewell visited small and remote Lakeview (whose BLM office oversees a vast area) on the subject of sage grouse habitat. The biggest topic of discussion, however, probably was the newly-publicized Forest Service rule on photography in wilderness areas.

Debates have been getting underway this last week, and more are coming in the next few weeks. Most are available on the web through stream. One notably worth watching: The Twin Falls debate between Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra; the link is on the web site of the Twin Falls Times News, whose managing editor moderated.

On the front pages


The Oregon battle over GMO labeling is definitely on the tube, and news reports around the state took notice of that today. The ads are capably produced on both sides, and the results could be pretty close.

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise considers downtown traffic patterns (Boise Statesman)
Idaho closes out moderate fire season (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing Idaho potato market (TF Times News)

GMO initiative battle goes on air (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette)
New water lines developed in Butte Falls (Medford Tribune)
New hires at UO education school (Eugene Register Guard)
On the new University of Portland president (Portland Oregonian)
Report finds no abuse at state hospital (Salem Statesman Journal)

Inslee panel would revive water, excise taxes (Everett Herald)
Stanfield looks at city hall update (Everett Herald)
Gorge plans and area residents conflict (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Gun ballot issue battle over 'transfer' (Olympian)
Issue: Constitutionality of new school taxes (Olympian)
Sequim may see new water rates (Port Angeles News)
Rare bumblebees expand in Olympic park (Port Angeles News)
Judge candidates battle on pay-or-appear (Port Angeles News)
Demand increases for Washington's hops (Seattle Times)
Spokane sheriff positioned for re-election (Spokane Spokesman)
GOP relectant on new school taxes (Tacoma News Tribune)
Bull trout at Yakima deemed endangered (Yakima Herald Republic)