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Load up your 35mm camera. The nation's two top land managers have reversed policy and have now determined you will no longer need a federal permit to sell photographs taken on public lands.

In a letter to the Deseret News, Bureau of Land Management acting director Mike Dombeck and U.S. Forest Service chief Jack Ward Thomas emphasized a policy that "allows most photography to occur without permits or fees" - contrary to the policies implemented by local bureaucrats.As reported earlier this year in the Deseret News, the Utah Bureau of Land Management and the local U.S. Forest Service had been implementing a policy of requiring professional photographers to first obtain permits - a sometimes lengthy and often expensive process. The permit requirement was also being applied to free-lance photographers.

The requirement was based upon bureaucratic interpretations of a federal law that states that any and all commercial enterprises on public lands require the user to pay fair compensation for that privilege. Historically, the practice has been applied to those who graze cattle and drill for oil.

But in Utah, land managers began extending the policy to professional photographers, many of whom make their livings photo- graphing the state's scenic wonders. Many of Utah's more prominent photographers have received notices from federal officials stating they must obtain permits to ply their profession.

Some of them complied, but others refused.

However, the letter from Dombeck and Thomas stated that media accounts of the federal policy were erroneous, that federal land-management policies did not require photographers to obtain permits, except in three cases:

- When photographers take photographs of public land users with the purpose of selling the photographs back to the land users.

- When photography featuring a commercial product for sale uses public lands as a backdrop.

- And when the photography would adversely impact the public lands, such as deterioration of archaeological and historical sites.

However, the Deseret News was told repeatedly by both local officials of the BLM and Forest Service that the only exceptions to the permit requirements were photography by news organizations and for scientific and educational purposes.

The BLM is in the midst of rewriting its rules regarding commercial photography on public lands. Dombeck's signature on the letter will likely redirect rulemaking discussions that had previously focused on a fairer permit and fee process, officials say.

Instead of trying to soak money from photographers, the BLM-Forest Service policy is one attempt to "support and encourage photographers to make maximum use of the scenic beauty of the nation's public lands," the letter said.