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Missouri Opens Conservation Areas To Professional Photographers

Wayne Pratt
St. Louis Public Radio

Commercial photography and videos will soon be allowed in Missouri’s more than 1,000 conservation areas, lifting a longtime ban on such activity.

The new permits will be on sale July 1. Photographers will pay $100 a year, and videographers $500 a day, to use the areas for things like movie or documentary shoots, or wedding and engagement photos. Large groups and other special uses, such as a drone or being in conservation areas after dark, will require a separate but free permit.

“A lot of it goes to the primary purposes of our conservation areas,” said the MDC’s Amy Buechler of the ban on commercial activities. “Many were purchased, or maintained, or built, with federal funding that had stipulations that the primary purpose was protection of wildlife, as well as fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing areas. And so we typically stayed pretty close to that mandate.”

But Buechler said the department had received enough requests to prompt it to look into a permitting system. The department acknowledged in its announcement of the new opportunities that many other local, state and federal land management agencies allow commercial photography and videos on the lands they oversee, and said it looked at various policies to determine its version.

The department estimates it will bring in about $10,000 a year, which Buechler said will mainly cover the staff cost of reviewing and issuing the permits. But the department sees other value in the permits as well.

“It’s allowing new groups to go to our areas, getting different people involved in the outdoors in maybe less traditional ways,” she said.

The department receivedtwo comments on the rule change. Neither objected to allowing commercial photography in the conservation areas. They expressed concern about the cost of the permits and how the department would distinguish between amateur and commercial photographers.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.