Wilderness, Commercial Enterprise and Speech

The Salmon-Challis forest supervisor, Frank Guzman, is coming under attack from the Idaho Conservation League and Governor Butch Otter for up-holding the letter of the Wilderness Act. Guzman denied a public television station’s request to film a documentary in a wilderness area. Guzman explained to the Idaho press that the Wilderness Act bars commercial enterprises; the filming is a commercial enterprise; and, thus, the filming is not permitted.

ICL and Otter argue that public television is non-commercial; a claim readily dismissed by anyone who has ever listened to public television’s sponsorship credits. More problematic still is ICL’s argument that the television station’s record of supporting pro-environment programming justifies the wilderness filming. Content-based speech regulation is a slippery slope that ICL should know better than to be encouraging.

Supervisor Guzman is no great friend of wilderness or forest preservation. He’s likely tickled that public television gave him a chance to offend free speech purists, environmentalists, and wilderness advocates who downplay the Wilderness Act’s restrictions as they seek to add wilderness areas to the system. Nonetheless, I’m happy to commend Guzman for obeying the law.

2 thoughts on “Wilderness, Commercial Enterprise and Speech”

  1. Putting politics over principle, regional forester Harv Forsgren overruled his own wilderness staff in deciding to issue this filming permit. And to make sure no one had time to challenge his decision, the permit allows wilderness filming to begin today (5/24) through June 3.

    Although the Forest Service’s Handbook requires that filming permits be issued under a 2000 law (16 USC 460l-6d) Congress adopted to regulate commercial filming on public land, Forsgren’s permit to Idaho Public Television ignores the 2000 law and relies instead on the 1897 Organic Act. Why? Perhaps because the 2000 law, although it allows fees to be waived for non-profits, still requires that permit recipients pay Forest Service costs to issue and administer the permit.

    Since when is it the Forest Service’s mission “to improve access” to wilderness areas?


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