WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) yesterday to testify before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee regarding Inhofe’s bill that would allow media filming on public lands.  The bill, S.1241, has a U.S. House companion H.R.2031 sponsored by Rep. Dan Boren (OK-2).  The Senate bill is also being co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

“Our nation’s public lands are an incredible natural resource, and the professional outdoor media industry is a valuable way to bring awareness to our nation’s resources through documentaries, sporting programs, and other productions,” Inhofe said.  “Small filming crews can be negatively affected by the current permitting and fee schedule because wildlife filming is very effected by unpredictable factors requiring much patience and time.  The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has designated S. 1241 as a priority for this Congress and the legislation is supported by over 30 sportsmen’s and conservation organizations including the National Rifle Association.  Very simply this bill lessens the burdens on small commercial filming on public lands by authorizing a special permit to small film crews, defined in the bill as five persons or fewer, to simply pay a reasonable annual fee to be able to film on public lands.” 

In a letter of support, 33 organizations stated, “The need for this legislation arose from concerns about the recently proposed rules for filming and photographing on federal lands and waterways. While we certainly understand the need to implement controls to limit the potential damage that can be caused by large film crews, the majority of filming and still photography that takes place on federal lands and waterways has no deleterious impacts on the landscape, the people who visit them, or the fish and wildlife that reside on them. In fact, many of our most treasured public lands, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, would never have been set aside for the enjoyment of millions of citizens had their unique resources not been photographed and disseminated to the American public.”

The issue was brought to Inhofe’s attention by Oklahoma film producers.  One such producer, Steve Scott, a past Chairman of the Board of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, and a designated representative for the Wild Sheep Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, and USA Shooting said at the hearing, “The current system of issuing permits and collecting fees for filming on public lands has evolved into a system in which federal law is interpreted and administered by DOI and DOA field offices that apply their own standards and criteria before issuing a permit, if they will issue a permit at all.  Financial issues notwithstanding, the most important aspect of S.1241 is that it will standardize the permitting system and its criteria throughout the U.S., and eliminate the harmful arbitrary and capricious enforcement of the current standards by local DOI and DOA field personnel.” 

The Inhofe bill, S.1241, directs the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture, for any film crew of five persons or fewer, to require a permit and assess an annual fee of $200 for commercial filming activities or similar projects on federal lands and waterways.   The bill also prohibits the federal government from assessing any additional fee for commercial filming activities and similar projects, and bars the government from prohibiting the use of cameras or related equipment used for commercial filming activities or similar projects.