Idaho parks officials want to welcome visitors who film, post to social media

January 16, 2019
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An aerial view of Eagle Island State Park, 165 Eagle Island Parkway, in Eagle.

BOISE — Idaho’s state parks want to be more welcoming to visitors who want to shoot videos or photos of their experiences and post them on social media, state parks officials told lawmakers Tuesday.

But David White, North Region manager for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, said they’ve been hamstrung by an outdated, 1993-vintage rule about managing the production of commercial filming in Idaho parks. So the parks have proposed a revamped version of the rule to make it more clear that the only folks who have to apply for commercial filming permits, and pay a $100 application fee, are actual commercial film crews, like those who’ve shot elaborate car commercials recently at the City of Rocks.

“We have found the current rule to be too restrictive to accommodate the changing demands of our visitors” while still protecting park resources, White told the House Resources Committee Tuesday. Under the current rule, anyone taking video or still images that they intend to sell technically needs to have a permit.

“Almost all park users now can easily record and produce high-definition still and moving images,” White told the committee. “This change in recent years has greatly increased the inability of park staff to administer this rule.”

Plus, the rise of social media, including both for-profit and nonprofit platforms, has changed things. “In both cases, there’s value to IDPR in the display of our parks and recreation sites,” White said. “The (existing) rule could be considered stifling to what some might regard as free promotion of our recreation sites.”

In response to questions from committee members, White said the new rule would exempt nonprofits, filming for news purposes and other activities from the licensing requirements, which are aimed at those who bring in sets, props, models and the like, and require coordination with park facility managers.

“The bottom line is IDPR wants to make it easier for regular photographers to take pictures in and of our state parks, but at the same time make sure commercial filming is managed in the interest of the … resource,” White said.

The department held negotiated rule-making sessions earlier on the rule revamp, but received no comments.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, asked what the penalty is for filming without a permit. White said, “We haven’t pursued that in the 20 years I’ve been with the state, so I don’t have a good answer.”

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said, “I guess my question is what’s so wrong with people making money for taking pictures in a park?”

White said if state parks become a money-making tool for private business, the state expects “some sort of payment to the state for the use of that property. … If we opened it up for anyone to make money off of state property, that would greatly change what happens.” He noted that parks issue concessions for functions like marinas and horseback riding operations.

Ada County Republican Chairman Ryan Davidson, who said he was appearing as a private citizen, arrived late and spoke out against the rule, saying he worried it would require licensing “if somebody filmed their camping trip” and then put it on YouTube, earning a few dollars. “That could be an issue down the line, if a park ranger gets in your face because you have a cellphone camera,” he said.

Committee Chairman Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, thanked Davidson for his comments, noted that he’d missed part of the presentation, and asked White to clarify.

White said, “We have no desire to try to manage that. That’s why we were very specific in our definitions.”

The panel voted 16-2 in favor of approving the new filming rule. The only “no” votes came from Reps. Moon and Judy Boyle, R-Midvale.

The Legislature reviews all new pending administrative rules from state agencies, but can only approve or reject them; rejecting a rule requires rejection from the relevant committees in both houses. So even though a Senate committee still must review the House-approved rule, the House panel’s approval signals that the rule likely will stand.

Other types of rules, including temporary and fee rules, require approval from both houses to stand.

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