Public Land Commercial Filming Permits are Discrimination

Let me start by saying that I don’t do commercial filming on public lands.

I don’t film for money.

I don’t put ads on my videos.

YouTube might. But that’s between YouTube and the Public Land Management Agency.

Recently, the National Park Service appealed a court ruling that charging fees for commercial filming were unconstitutional. Initially, they ceased their appeal system. Everyone figured they would appeal the verdict. They did, and the court favored the Park Service.

Now the Park Service has reinstituted their policy that you have to have a permit to do commercial filming on National Park land. They even consider advertising profit from websites like YouTube and TikTok to be commercial filming. The permits are expensive, you have to have insurance, a park employee may visit to check on the filming, and you’ll be charged for their visit.

It seems like the National Park Service is declaring war on video creators.

It’s discrimination.

How so?

Commercial filming permits were created for movie production companies. These companies use people and props and even require activities that will likely damage a natural area to film. The permit system was made for that reason, which is a good reason since it costs money to recover from a movie being filmed at a National Park.

However, a simple video creator trying to earn a living as an outdoor influencer is not a move production company. They don’t have a budget. They don’t make that much money. In most cases, the permit and insurance costs would be more than the profit earned from the video.

To sum it up, the National Park Service is discriminating against small businesses. It favors wealthy commercial filming businesses and singling out the little guy. The little guy is often made up of poorer people, minorities, and young people trying to make a living. The Park Service is practicing discrimination by requiring such high-cost permits and regulations.

A movie production company will likely damage an area. However, a GoPro isn’t doing more damage than a hiker without a GoPro.

And don’t say that their video is causing problems because it’s bringing more people to National Parks.

It’s public land for a reason. If the public shouldn’t go to public land, give that land back to landowners and don’t claim it’s public. Besides, have you seen the NPS social media? They’re promoting using public land more than any social media influencer does.

National Park Service isn’t the only one that discriminates. For example, I don’t put ads on my videos in the Shawnee National Forest because the US Forest Service also has these permit costs that are not small business-friendly, and getting a permit for anything usually takes months.

State-managed land also has permits that cost money. Typically, their permits are a little cheaper but still do not favor small businesses.

Now, I don’t accuse NPS, US Forest Service, or IDNR of purposely discriminating against small businesses and people with less money.

Remember – these regulations and permits were created when YouTube didn’t exist. It was movie production companies with budgets able to pay for these permits. And these companies were likely going to make an impact on the forest floor. So their permit system makes sense.

A hiker with a GoPro paying for a $100-a-day permit, having a million dollars in insurance, and paying a Park Service employee to bird dog them isn’t going to make near the amount they spend from an advertisement on YouTube or TikTok.

The agencies need to update their permit system. They need to work with creators on developing a fair system.

A lot of people don’t want to pay. But I feel that once you hit a certain threshold of making a profit, you should pay. If you do anything outside of general hiking, like using props and paid actors, you should pay and have insurance to cover accidents.

I have insurance to cover the medical costs of anyone getting hurt on one of my guided hikes. I also have a permit with the Forest Service. I had to pay for it. I’ve well over what I paid. But that benefit isn’t the same as earning a profit on YouTube ads.

I recently contacted US Forest Service to initiate a commercial permit to film. My idea was to experiment with how much I spent versus how much the video made me in return. Unfortunately, the Forest Service never responded to my request. Therefore, I was never able to get the permit.

This system has to change. It’s flawed. It discriminates against small businesses. By the standards of modern America, it is an anti-American practice. You can quote me on that. The current public land commercial filming permit system is anti-American dream.

To the opposers, get used to people making money with social media and the internet. You can either evolve, or you’ll fall. On the other hand, the internet is creating a new wave of jobs and economic stability.

I don’t personally blame southern Illinois Forest Service workers or state workers, or park rangers at National Parks. I blame their administration at the capital level, which is not making an effort to change these old systems that now discriminate because they are not modernly acceptable to the evolution of American occupations.

Social creators are changing the world for the better. Unfortunately, this outdated permit system is a threat to the American Dream. Voice your opinion. Sign petitions. Write to your policymakers. Write to the Park Service. Write to the President. Never give up trying to make the American Dream a right for all businesses big or small. And don’t let the opposing party try to stop you from sharing your opinion, I know they won’t stop me.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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