People in Las Vegas often visit Mt. Charleston (a part of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest), both for recreational and photographic purposes. In winter its snow-capped peaks are a welcome change from the generally snow-free city below, and in summer its cooler temperatures and scenic environment invite day trips and camping. More generally, the US Forest Service operates 193 million acres of scenic land throughout the United States, and is a frequent destination for both amateur and professional photographers.
Models and photographers who want to use USFS land for photography need to know the rules that apply to them. Although the Forest Service’s regulations are subject to the same law (PL 106-206) as the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, readers of this series have already discovered that the implementation of rules can be very different among the various agencies of government.
Discovering what the rules are takes a little bit of digging. The Regulations implementing PL 106-206 refer to a lower level document, Forest Service Handbook 2709.11, to define what “a model” means, and it is further modified by Forest Service Manual 2700. Casual photographers might be excused if they don’t track down those documents and determine what the rules actually are.
The Forest Service defines “a model” for purposes of permit requirements as:
“d. Model. An individual who poses for the commercial filming or still photography of a product or service for the purpose of promoting its sale or use. A model may also include inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, off-highway vehicles, articles of clothing, food and beverage products, and so forth, placed on National Forest System lands so that they may be filmed, photographed, or recorded to promote their sale or use.”
This is quite similar to the approach taken by the Bureau of Land Management, and means that amateur photographers should be able to photograph models on USFS lands without needing a permit.
It gets a little more ambiguous, however, for stock photographers, test photographers or others shooting pictures for their own or the model’s portfolios. Arguably those uses are not “for the purpose of promoting . . . the sale or use” of a product or service, as the BLM policy has confirmed for their land. However, when the national office of the USFS was asked for confirmation they did not reply to repeated requests, so photographers of models for anything other than purely amateur purposes are left at some degree at risk.
But that’s not the end of the story. In the same Handbook, the Forest Service has a unique definition of “sets and props” that is quite different from what is accepted in the photography industry, and people reading just the law or the Regulations might be led astray. To the USFS, for purpose of permit requirements:
“e. Sets and Props. Items constructed or placed on National Forest System lands to accommodate commercial filming or still photography, such as backdrops, generators, microphones, stages, lighting banks, camera tracks, vehicles specifically designed to accommodate camera or recording equipment, rope and pulley systems, rigging for climbers, and structures. Sets and props also include trained animals and inanimate objects, such as camping equipment, campfires, wagons, and so forth, when used to stage a specific scene. A set or prop does not include any of the preceding items when they are used to report breaking news, nor does a prop include a hand-held camera or a camera mounted on a tripod.”
This would appear to say that other than a tripod, almost any equipment you are using as part of your shoot that is put on the ground, whether in the picture or behind the scenes, is a “set or prop” that would trigger a permit requirement. Again, despite multiple queries, the Forest Service did not respond to a request for clarification.
Additional criteria are used in determining if a permit is necessary, or if it will be approved. See, for instance, their Interim Directive 2709.11-2010-2, which is updated annually (link below). If you do need a permit, the cost and process is determined regionally, so you need to contact your local office www.fs.fed.us/contactus/regions.shtml For Mount Charleston that would be by telephone at 775-331-6444.
The Forest Service rules are quite different from those of other federal land management agencies. People intending to photograph models on BLM lands should read the article at http://echoflam.com/modeling-in-las-vegas/photographing-models-on-federal-property-blm-lands and if your location is National Park Service lands, the situation is so complicated that it had to be described in the series beginning at http://echoflam.com/modeling-in-las-vegas/photographing-models-on-federal-property-national-park-service-lands-3
1. USFS Description of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/htnf
3. Emails with US Forest Service
4. Public Law 106-206, codified at 16 U.S.C. 460l-6d http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/16/usc_sec_16_00000460—l006d.html
5. Forest Service Regulations: 36 CFR 251.1 http://law.justia.com/us/cfr/title36/36-126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.html
6. Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 2709.11 http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives/fsh/2709.11/2709.11_40.doc
7. Forest Service Manual 2700 – special uses management http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives/fsm/2700/2720.doc
8. Directive on approval of special use permits: http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/documents/id_2709.11-2010-2.pdf
Disclaimer: the author is not a lawyer. The information above is provided as general information on permit requirements, and should not be taken as legal advice.