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Missouri Opens Conservation Areas To Professional Photographers

The Emmenegger Nature Park in Kirkwood, MO as seen on June 4, 2021
Wayne Pratt
St. Louis Public Radio
Starting July 1, photographers and videographers will be able to use Missouri Department of Conservation areas like Emmenegger Nature Park in Kirkwood for commercial use.

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

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.