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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Commercial Filming and Photography on Federal Lands

Laura B. Comay
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Federal lands such as national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, ranges, and other landscapes are popular locations for motion pictures and commercial photography.
1 Historically, the major federal land management agencies—the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture (USDA)—did not share a consistent approach for regulating commercial filming and photography on their lands. For example, while the FS has long charged fees for commercial filming, prior to 2000 the NPS and FWS were prohibited by regulation from charging such fees.

A 2000 law, P.L. 106-206 (16 U.S.C. 460l-6d), directed the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to require permits and develop a consistent fee structure for commercial filming and some photography on federal lands. In response to this law, on August 22, 2013, the Department of the Interior published a final rule establishing regulations for these activities for the BLM, NPS, and FWS (the FS already had in place a regulatory policy for film and photography permits).
3 In addition, on the same day, the four agencies jointly released a proposed fee schedule that would set uniform fees for commercial filming and photography across federal lands.

In its oversight role, Congress may review the 2013 regulations and proposed fee schedule. One issue is whether the fees are set appropriately for smaller-scale filmmakers and photographers. In the 113
th Congress, H.R. 2798, H.R. 3197, and S. 1335 propose special rules for film crews of five or fewer that could in some cases result in lower fees than proposed by the agencies. Additionally, Congress may consider issues such as whether the fees provide a “fair return” to the nation, as required by P.L. 106-206, and whether the regulations align with broader government goals to streamline procedures, reduce paperwork, and increase efficiency.

Date of Report: October 30, 2013
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: R43267
Price: $19.95

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