By Larry Dablemont
People have been contacting me asking if I had heard about the Missouri Department of Conservation declaring that people who take photographs inside public areas, they manage must buy a permit to do so. I have to look into that, but I can’t imagine that they would do that, telling photographers to pay in order to take pictures inside areas owned by the citizens of the state of Missouri.
I take lots of photos of course, and in recent times have been photographing the forest devastation which comes from rape of these areas by logging companies. Those companies contract to pay the MDC to remove millions and millions of board feet of lumber from the areas which Missourians own. The loggers make hundreds of thousands of dollars stripping the timber, then pay a percentage of that profit to the MDC, which desires money more than anything else, including the beauty and wildlife of a natural area.
They have destroyed some of the most beautiful public areas in their charge, many of them given to them by people now deceased, who wanted their lands preserved.
I take a bunch of photos of those places they have destroyed, and they know that I intend to publish the photos in a book I am writing about them. So maybe the photos I have taken is part of the reason they want to have photography outlawed, and a required, and an expensive permit will take care of that. But it won’t stop me, because such a move is unenforceable and denies people their constitutional rights.
If they don’t know that, they will find it out, with lawsuits they may have to answer to. But here is what I envision happening when I come walking out of the woods on areas all Missourian owns, with my camera, and find a pair of agents waiting in their brand new $50,000 MDC-owned pickup, from which they do their work. The conversation might go something like this…
AGENT…I see you have your camera with you; do you have your photography permit?
ME…Oh no sir, I did not want to leave it or my pistol in my vehicle to be stolen so I just brought them with me on my hike. But this expensive camera cannot take photos unless it has a card in it and you can see that there is none inside it. My pistol has no bullets in it, so I won’t be tempted to shoot any copperheads, which your laws also protect.
AGENT…Well where is that camera card, you no-account violator?
ME…Well sir it is lost maybe, or possibly in my pocket or my billfold which you have no business finding unless you have a search warrant. But then, should you confiscate it, you would see photos I took here and there, of birds and wildlife and wildflowers. I took all of them on my own place, or so I will proclaim in court. And those of destroyed trees and slash and erosion, I took on private land, which I will also tell the judge, or my lawyer will!
AGENT…You are lying, you no good violating photographer.
ME…Well, the only way you will ever know is if you wander out into the tick and snake infested woodlands and catch me in the act…and that is a long way from that air-conditioned pick-up which you seldom get more than a few feet from. And if you actually were to leave your pick-up you are going to find out that trying to force Missouri citizens to pay to take photos on public land they own is one of the most ridiculous money-grubbing attempts the MDC has ever taken, and it may possibly cost them a lot of money when someone who can pay an expensive lawyer decides to sue them. You guys probably don’t remember this, but the last time the MDC was sued, they had to pay one of those lawyers and his clients a million dollars. So go get your search warrant, and I will wait here until you get back and confiscate that camera card…if you can find it.
Now of course, should some agent be reading this, or the desk-sitters in Jefferson City hear about it, I will soon be going to the MDC managed Niangua Area and taking photos. I will gladly tell you when that will be, and perhaps take other photographers with me.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.