Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Permits for filming on federal public lands

From OWAA News

Feb. 13, 2015

Contact: OWAA President Mark Freeman

Below is a summary of the position we have developed with respect to the U.S. Forest Service proposed regulations requiring permits to film on Forest Service land.

While we await a new directive from the Forest Service based on very positive comments offered last fall, there is now another venue in which fees and permits for news gathering on all public lands is being vetted.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, introduced in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 5, includes a $200 per year permit proposal for any crews of five people or smaller while filming on all public lands. It currently does not offer exemptions for working journalists as Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell outlined in how he wants the current temporary rules applied on Forest Service land.

We maintain that lumping journalists who are disseminating information about the public’s own lands with television advertising and feature film crews’ work could lead to serious First Amendment implications and quite likely infringements.

While we are limited in what we can do in terms of lobbying on legislative matters as a nonprofit organization, OWAA members may inform their representatives and senators about their personal views on this sliver (Section 106) of the Sportsmen’s Act.

Access to Public Lands for Journalists

The Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) believes improvements should be made to directives regulating commercial filming or photography on public land so as not to impede the important work of any OWAA member or other professional journalists. The OWAA is especially concerned about the impact existing federal regulations have on our members who are freelancers.

Based on our discussions with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell during the Forest Service’s rulemaking “Proposed Directive for Commercial Filming in Wilderness” and a review of existing rules, OWAA strongly believes all agency regulations of this nature should specifically exempt professional journalists, working on an assignment for a media outlet or gathering information, images or footage to sell to a media outlet. Such directives must be fully communicated to the field.

  • A clearly stated exemption for working media is needed to ensure that the language does not accidentally put federal land managers in a position of violating the First Amendment freedoms against prior restraint.
  • Definitions of journalism should include but not be limited to breaking news, b-roll film, feature news, news documentaries, long-form pieces, background, blogs and any other output that could be considered related to news gathering or reporting.
  • The OWAA recommends language be added addressing the scope of the regulations so that the newsgathering definition and exemption for working journalists will be consistently interpreted by all present and future federal employees.
  • OWAA members appreciate and value our natural resources and seek rules that restrict the improper commercialization of federal lands, especially designated wilderness areas, without restraining the reporting dynamics of outdoor communicators. Our work brings the majesty of public lands to life for Americans, our readers and viewers and owners of these spectacular lands.

First Amendment Protection
In order to address these First Amendment concerns, OWAA recommends the following language be added to regulations of this nature: “Constitutionally protected activity of journalists, as used in these regulations, includes journalists, working on an assignment for a media outlet, or gathering information, images or footage with the intent to sell them to a media outlet.”

This language would address the range of professional activities by OWAA members, including journalists on assignment – either freelancers or staffers – as well as journalists packaging a story for future sale to a yet-unidentified media outlet. This so-called “working on spec” is common, for instance, in the magazine publishing realm when publishers enter into contractual agreements only for completed works. It would include filming b-roll film for future stories not yet assigned or sold.

The specifically stated exemption is important because it best reflects the industry of today and the future. While the term “filming” may have been intended to mean movies or commercials, it incorrectly encompasses activities by virtually all outdoor media professionals working today. Even newspaper staffers routinely shoot videos, sometimes with just their phones, as an extra medium published on newspapers’ websites.

Under existing regulations, federal land managers could believe it their duty to make sure working journalists are following the filming and photography requirements before those activities occur. This could lead to, for example, a federal employee improperly requiring that a journalist apply for a permit for review to determine whether he or she considers the planned newsgathering activity as meeting public land access criteria. This therefore would become an unprecedented review of a journalist’s activities prior to publishing – a violation of First Amendment protections against prior restraint by government.

Without this clearly stated exemption, both federal agencies and working journalists could misinterpret the language and intent, resulting in inconsistent application of the rules and serving no positive end.

Consistent Interpretation
The term “newsgathering” is subject to a range of interpretations. Some suggest that it means coverage of breaking news, such as wildfires.
But the newsgathering process actually accounts for a wide array of activities, from breaking news to news-features to profiles and the collection of B-roll footage.

The OWAA also recommends the following language be added addressing the scope of the regulations so that the newsgathering definition and exemption for working journalists will be consistently interpreted by all present and future federal employees. This proposal is based upon language in the National Park Service regulations addressing this issue.

“Newsgathering activities and other constitutionally protected activities of journalists involving filming, videography or still photography do not require a permit unless:
(1) A permit is necessary to protect natural and cultural resources, to avoid visitor use conflicts, to ensure public safety or authorize entrance into a closed area; and
(2) Obtaining a permit will not interfere with the ability to gather the news or with other constitutionally protected activities of journalists.”


Download a copy of the position paper.

Today’s Outdoor Media

From OWAA NewsRum Chron1.2

The outdoor communication industry has a rich history of helping the America people see the outdoors even if they couldn’t get outside themselves.

Kids curled up with flashlights and sporting maga­zines under their bed covers. Adults read newspapers in leather chairs while smoking a pipe and enjoying a single malt.

Magazine articles, TV shows and outdoor columns in newspapers, transported Americans into the great outdoors.

Today, OWAA members keep that tradition alive while we, as our missions says, “set the highest ethical and communications standards.”

We bring adventure, great storytelling and enter­tainment into the homes of the public, but even more importantly, outdoor journalists continue to play a criti­cal role in helping the American people see the value in the great outdoors while also calling attention to what threatens it.

The history of outdoor writers calling attention to bad land or wildlife management actions is legendary. Journalist can point out how, without public vigilance, their elected officials will sell that heritage to the highest bidder.

One of the more significant mission tenets of OWAA is “encour­age public enjoyment and conservation of natural resources.”

Outdoor journalists show a simple equation; healthy habitat creates recreation opportunities. And recreation drives significant economic activity. That is a message that resonates in the halls of power and is strong medicine in fighting for the protection of our natural resources.

OWAA members are the voices that show the world the grandeur of America’s outdoor resources. They are the voices that share the stories — good and bad — of our waters and woods.

Land, fish and wildlife don’t have human voices, so we must be the voice to reach the American people. My job is making sure our members have the tools and opportunities to be a loud and effective voice.

OWAA is comprised of more than 800 individual outdoor communicators covering a broad spectrum of outdoor beats, from shooting to camping, fishing to kayaking and wildlife watching to backpacking. From these diverse backgrounds and disciplines, members gather beneath the OWAA ban­ner to hone skills, share philosophies, develop profitable business strategies and network with peers, conservation policymakers and industry trendsetters.

Eighty-seven years ago the men who started OWAA thought the work they were doing as chroniclers of the great outdoors was important enough to found an organization to perpetuate the craft.

Today, access to public lands is shrinking, habitat loss is increas­ing and environmental issues complex. The work we do today as outdoor journalists is as important, perhaps even more so, then it was back then.

Wet Work

Lily Wet long

wetter is better…


As a fishing guide and a journalist the chance to chronicle the outdoor experience is a side benefit of being on the water. Many times that means getting a photo of a happy fly-fisher with a fish.

Here’s the rub. The grip and grin, hero shot is great for the angler, but even when it is done right is not great for the fish and when done wrong can be deadly. My friend Dr. Andy Danlychuck has been beating the drum about this for a while and the idea has been stuck in my head.

I’ve done it, at lot and it bothers me. Sure, I am careful when I set up those shots but I’ve always worried about it. Of course I want the client to have a memento but not at the sacrifice of my business partner the fish.

Not surprisingly others have similar concerns.

Kirk Deeter has posted before on the subject and recently posted New Year’s Resolution Number One: Goodbye Grip-n-Grins in Field & Stream’s Fly Talk. “Fact is, a lot of fish get killed to make photographs, and we need to do more to improve that one way or another.”

Cameron Mortenson of Fiberglass Manifesto posted Keep ‘Em Wet. “The more that I think and talk about it, the better idea this becomes.”

Native Fish Society is running a photo contest to help drive the Keep ‘Em Wet message. “So, let’s get creative with the way we photograph our wild fish by keeping them wet and in the water.”

You only need to look at some of Brian OKeefe’s photos to see how to do it right.

The time has come for better, wetter photos.

Caught my eye – 2014 week 50

Here are some things that recently caught my eye (in no particular order.) 

  1. Clarity from Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer > I wanted to share something that happened to me.
  2. John Fall talked about the therapy of fly fishing > I am now a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of fly fishing
  3. An interesting way to make a cooking fire pit > Tip from the Book: How to Dig a Dakota Fire Hole
  4. Another good friend joined the AFFTA board > Two New Board Members Join AFFTA Board of Directors
  5. What a sailor learned > A Sailor’s Perspective on the United States Army
  6. A soldier pays tribute to the men he left behind > Story Corps: 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon
  7. A wonderful tribute to a black lab named Duke > I Died Today.
  8. Congress finally did something good for public lands (but a price..) > Sportsmen Applaud Historic Move to Conserve America’s Finest Habitat
  9. Navy Beat Army for the 13th time in a row > How Many Times Does Navy Have to Win Before it’s Renamed the Navy-Army Game?
  10. Great political satire on the immigration debate > Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 220 Million Undocumented Whites

The Duty to Act

Below is a trailer to the film CO2LD WATERS.

You need to watch it.

As Thomas McGuane wrote in The Longest Silence, “if the trout are lost, smash the state.”

Fortunately, Todd Tanner of Conservation Hawks has started the process. In this new project he joins fly fishing notables Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Steve Hemkens of Orvis and Tim Romano of Angling Trade in pointing out the consequences of ignoring global climate change.

If you don’t think climate change is problem, then you are just not paying attention.

Not sure what you can do about it? Share this video, add your voice and stay informed.



The Philosophy of Brook Trout

If you have even a passing interest in brook trout then you will want to pick up a copy of Downstream by David L. O’Hara and Matthew T. Dickerson.

If we could explain why grown men are so fascinated with brook trout, or why we spend so much of our time waist-deep in their waters, soaked to the bone, shivering, and delighting in every encounter with a specked trout, we wouldn’t need to write stories. This book is the best answer we can give.”

So begins this excellent book that explores the nexus between brook trout, fly fishing and some of the more interesting locations these very special fish call home.

The authors switch off with narratives that reflect both their personalities and points of view. The joy in the book comes in how they share their experience of fishing for brookies and the insights they give to the importance of the habitat the brook trout occupy.

The only complaint I would lodge is that they did not include Virginia in their travels. It would have been wonderful to see my home waters through their eyes.

The authors explore not only the impacts wrought upon the brook trout’s habitat, they also share their experience as fisherman; the teaching, manners, politics and connections to home. Dickerson is quite adept and entertaining at sharing the conundrums many fly fisherman face.

At the beginning of the conclusion, O’Hara quotes Kathleen Dean Moore from Pine Island Paradox.

I believe that the most loving thing you can say to a person is “Look.” And the most loving stance is not a close embrace, but two people standing side by side, looking out together on the world. When people learn to look, they begin to see, really see. When they begin to see, they begin to care. And caring is the portal to the into the moral world.”

Then, in my favorite part of the book he delves into the question of why he fishes. No doubt the answer to why is going to be different for everyone; but he does a fine job of putting on paper something that I and many others can relate to, to know the world we live in and our own lives better.

Downstream delivers an excellent “look” that Moore describes and the reader will come away with a sense of having stood side by side with the authors as they share their sense of caring for these special fish and the places they live.