Warning: Long posting coming up. Delete now, unless interested in the
ethics of administering national parks systems.
Hugh Livingston and Bernie Krause have touched on a difficult situation:
difficult for the Park Service, for the Rangers, for the Park visitors. No
simple solution, I reckon, and I'd like to express some sympathy for the
Park managers. (I'll add a note at the end re my background as a basis for
Hugh writes that, "taking a mushroom (the fruit) produces absolutely no
damage and it is a completely renewable resource".
But where to draw the line? Allow one person to take one mushroom - fungal
fruiting body - and it's inconsistent not to allow another person to take a
fruit of something else. If a fruit, how about a leaf? Several leaves? A
botanical specimen? If a botanist can collect a specimen, what about an
entomologist collecting a dead insect? How can the Ranger tell whether the
insect was dead when collected? A geologist to collect a piece of rock?
And so on. A child to be able to collect a pretty shell on a beach? A
tourist to make a collection of shells?
Total protection, total non-interference with anything occurring naturally
on a National Park is really the only practical option, even though this
gives both the scientist and the Service the bother of the permit system.
Bernie's sound recording is a different matter - but with some parallels.
Let me approach it via photography. Taking a photo causes no interference
at all. Right? Yes, if it's just of the scenery. But if of wildlife?
Still no harm? Mostly not, but ... If someone sets up a camera focussed o=
a birds' nest and chicks, then deliberately keeps both parents away until
they are frantic to feed the chicks so that he gets both parents at the nes=
at once? It's happened here in Australia! No sound recording equivalent?
Perhaps not, but what about the use of playback to stir a territorial bird
Then there's another aspect. Syd Curtis (me) for research purposes records
lyrebirds in a range on national parks. No intention of making any
commercial use of the recordings. But years later an overseas national
institution wants to put out a commercial recording of bird song from aroun=
the world, and offers a fee. Does Syd refuse? He does not! And no harm
done to the park or its fauna. But the Parks cost a lot to manage and care
for. Should part of the fee go to the administration? No. Simply because
it would be impractical to collect such fees and cost more to administer an=
such system, than would be received.
But if an commercial advertising firm wants to use a beautiful piece of Par=
scenery as background for a TV commercial that has nothing to do with natur=
conservation and for which it will be paid many thousands of dollars? Or i=
a film company intends to make a multi-million dollar film of a story that
requires scenery with no sign whatever of modern human society? A National
Park might be the only place where so such requirements could be meet. I
assume that if a film company uses an existing building as distinct from
constructing a film set, they pay rent? Should they not pay a fee for usin=
a Park? I'm thinking of the Harry Potter film that was filmed in New
Zealand. I don't know that any of it was filmed in a National Park for New
Zealand (like Australia) has much open space free from obvious human
activity. But if it was? Would it not be appropriate for a fee to be paid
to help care for the Park. Could easily be afforded from the millions the
film has grossed.
Not simple is it? I think that there can be no clear-cut solution.
Perhaps it is somewhat alike traffic regulations. There has to be a
regulation making it an offence to drive a motor-vehicle on a pedestrian
walkway - footpath in Australia; sidewalk (?) in the United States. But it
might be preferable to drive onto the sidewalk to change a flat tyre rather
than block a traffic lane? And it certainly would be the only thing to do i=
it meant avoiding a child than ran onto the road and no-one on the sidewalk=
So. National Parks must be protected by regulations to cope with potentia=
problems. But they don't have to be rigidly enforced for every technical
breach. Inevitably though, there will be the occasional officious person i=
an official position who will try to do so. A sound administration will
always be on the alert to identify and educate (or remove), such
Syd Curtis (Brisbane, Australia)
My background: My professional career was in National Park administration
in Queensland, Australia, from 1962 to 1988. The Australian Constitution
makes the individual states responsible for all land matters, and therefore
our "National Parks" are administered by the individual states and not by
the Australian Government, but in every other respect they are the
equivalent of National Parks in other nations.
Prior to 1975 the Parks in Queensland were administered by the Forestry
Department, and the Forestry Annual Report to Parliament for 1946/47
referred to "the policy of the National Parks Service of the United States
of America - without doubt the most advanced in the world," as being worthy
of the most careful study. And indeed Australian National Parks have
closely followed the United States model, with permanent preservation of th=
natural condition, a prime aim of management.
This is going to turn me into a libertarian. I confess: I've been
recording natural soundscapes in US national parks, regional and
local parks, wildlife reserves, BLM sites, marine sanctuary, and
USFWS sites, without (and sometimes with) permits for 40 years. I've
been busted twice (the authorities so far have resorted to a stern
warning and a ticket for something in the area of $40 bucks), and
I've thus mortally sinned beyond words capturing those special
voices for posterity. I don't know if there's an acoustic hell in the
afterlife, but I'm probably bound to suffer
interminable stretches of bird-boarding (strapped to a board and
forced to listen to extinct bird sounds while the federal agencies
put on trial an entire population for daring to listen to what's
left) until I spill the beans on the real insidious purpose of my
Like I said before, if we can gather up large enough numbers, we
might all plan to meet as wildlife amateurs at the entrance of a
national park early one morning, march to a site oh so quietly, set
up our equipment (in view of as many cameras or cell phones as we can
sneak by the authorities so that we can post the result on YouTube)
and go for it. Then, move onto another park or site and do the same
thing. I don't expect the current authorities to understand shame
because, obviously, they have none. But perhaps there is still a
vestige of ignominy left in the culture...enough so that our
righteous act of disobedience will make an impression and difference.
> From: Hugh Livingston <>
> Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 11:50:31 -0800
> Subject: Re: [Nature Recordists] Will audio recording be affected too?
> I learned some interesting things recently at a mushroom foray in
> Mendocino led by David Arora, the Bernie Krause of mycology. David
> pointed out that he has been breaking the law (in minor ways) for 40
> years; there is just no way around it. Either trespassing on private
> land or picking in state parks where it is prohibited, even
> conducting his scientific research is illegal, despite the fact that
> taking a mushroom (the fruit) produces absolutely no damage and it is
> a completely renewable resource. Except insofar as the next person
> might want to eat the same mushroom, there is no impact. Michael
> Pollan thinks, in fact, that the mushrooms are cultivating us, as
> helpful propagators.
> A social ecologist from Washington State came and talked about the
> results of mushroom permitting added recently at the parks there;
> they require visiting M-F 9-5, in person only, for a permit so you
> can show your ID. Thus you can drive out to the parks (an hour or two
> from major cities) once during the workweek and then again on the
> weekend, or just choose to pick illegally. What do you think people
> choose? At least in some places in the Bay Area permits are available
> by mail.
> Then a former park ranger came and talked about the world of
> rangerdom, perhaps the most telling aspect for nature recordists. In
> his characterization, a ranger can accept assignment to a remote
> location for life, or prove their mettle as a manager and steward,
> and work their way up through the ranks to park management and
> eventually to Washington. But the only way to prove their development
> of their fiefdom is to have metrics to measure the growth of areas of
> usage, through visitor logs, permits and fees paid. If they can
> generate revenue and show they developed usage of the resource, that
> is good for their career. In short, nothing will stop these
> regulations and the imposition of fees and accounting.
> It is interesting to read the Park Service's concern about impact,
> noise, sharing of space, etc. for film crews, and wonder why that
> wouldn't be applied to snowmobiles...
> Definitions of commercial filming taken from Interior Department new
> proposed regulations
> "Commercial filming means the digital or film recording of a visual
> image or sound recording by a person, business, or other entity for a
> market audience, such as for a documentary, television or feature film,
> advertisement, or similar project. It does not include news coverage or
> visitor use."
> And this:
> "The filming of any motion picture or taking of sound recordings or
> still photography on a national wildlife refuge for subsequent
> commercial use is prohibited except as may be authorized under the
> provisions of 43 CFR part 5."
>> I found this article relating to photography in U.S. parks. Though it
>> is not audio recording relevant I can see that the same rights could be