GPS HIKES & MAPS: Trip Search Products Using GPS

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Picture This

This was 2 months ago.

I’m at the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region Office in Golden, CO. With me at the long conference table are Greg Warren, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Administrator for the Forest Service, and Bryan Martin, Field Operations Coordinator for the Continental Divide Trail Alliance.

This is our first meeting of many. We’re outlining the details of the CDT Project, and absolutely ecstatic about the overwhelming response from BACKPACKER readers who want to map the trail (at this time, we had 1,800 applicants).

Greg and Bryan know the CDT like Roger Ebert knows movies. They scan maps and Google Earth images of the trail almost every day. They can precisely name the most debated sections, the longest road walks, and other problematic areas along the trail’s 3,100-mile course. I’m learning new place names like Pie Town.

We begin discussing what data we’ll collect on the trail to put on our interactive mapping website. We’ll collect points of interest like trail junctions, overlooks, and campsites. We’ll gather details for land managers about trail conditions and bridges. We’ll take photos. And video clips.

“What kind of video clips?” asks Greg.

That’s when I learned about Public Law 106-206 (2000), which sets strict standards on filming and photographing on public lands. In short, it says commercial filming on public lands requires special permits (read: lots of red tape and fees). Greg added that filmmakers (even ones endorsed by PBS) have been denied filming permits in some Wilderness areas.

I can see why this law exists. We’ve seen Ford commercials in Joshua Tree National Park. Zippy Nissan ads in Olympic National Park. The law demands responsibility and awareness of public lands.

Would video kill the CDT project?

I soon came up with a list of Buts:

  • But our goal is to protect the trail, the land, and possibly finish the last long trail in the Lower 48.
  • But we’re not making a commercial or movie or 30-minute documentary
  • But our scouts are largely made up of volunteers, passionate hikers
  • But the trail details can be used by the land managers

Greg understood. He advised us. The meeting ended.

Over the next few weeks, we wrote a White Paper which was submitted to land mangers outlining our project, including our policy on video: “All video clips will be short (under 3 minutes), utilizing small digital cameras, and will only serve to promote wilderness and trail features.”

So far, so good. The outlook to shoot short video clips looks promising. Several land managers have reviewed it and so far no red flags. We’ll keep you posted.

Kris Wagner, Map Editor


karst said...

I seem to recall seeing oh, say, a gazillion people with video cameras at Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Washington Monument, Statue of Liberty. Is this a situation of its easy to beg forgiveness than to ask permission?

Scott G. said...

This really only applies to commercial filming; families with camcorders are safe. The question with this project was: how commercial are we? But with an all-volunteer crowd of mappers, it turns out the answer is "not very." This also saved us from applying for countless commercial backcountry use permits. As a side note, the law does allow for commercial still photography "where members of the public are generally allowed."