Harrassment at Devils Tower National Monument

Prairie dog watches Park Ranger harass me

Prairie dog watches in amazement as Park Ranger harasses me

My friend and Mike Robinson and I just returned from Devils Tower National Monument in Northeast Wyoming.  We had traveled specifically  there to photograph the Persieds meteor shower which peaked August 12th. Unfortunately It was overcast Sunday night and we didn’t get a chance to photograph the meteor shower.  On Monday morning  we were threatened and nearly ticketed by a park ranger for photographing without a permit.  At the time we were photographing prairie dogs form a road pull off where thousands of people photograph the prairie dogs every year. We were obviously profiled for using large telephoto lenses.  The ranger asked if I sell my photos to which I answered truthfully that I did. At that point he said  was in violation of the law and needed my ID and business name.   I told the ranger I was very aware of when a permit was required for still photography on public lands (even is the image may be sold) and that he was wrong.  He sure didn’t like that.  I’ve never seen a ranger more angry or threatening. I then requested a visit to the superintendent but he was out of town. I then asked to see the chief ranger and when he arrived the discussion continued.  I asked 3 times to see the regulation that would indicate that I was in violation of the law but they never showed it to us.  We saw them looking through the regulations and then tear up the tickets.  But unfortunately we were told that we could do no more photography until the matter was resolved.  Basically we were told to leave.  I usually carry a copy of the law for these situations but had them in a different bag that I left home…   Doing some more research I found   this   which in the Superintendents own words spells out when a permit is required in Devils Tower National Monument..  I’m now on a campaign to get an apology from the rangers involved and to get absolute clarification so the rangers won’t pull this stunt again to other unsuspecting photographers.  Here the National Park Service spells out the law clearly

UPDATE: I received a call from the chief ranger of Devils Tower. just a few minutes ago. He admitted I was correct and apologized for his rangers behavior and for his lack of understanding of the law. I thanked him but told him I would be following up on this situation with letters to his superiors, government officials and politicians. I will need a written apology from the initiating ranger and confirmation from the park superintendent that I was correct and acted in accordance of the law. The CR understood why I would pursue this further and had no ill will towards me.

It’s very important for all photographers to understand their rights in this era of hyper-regulation.  Know the laws and stand up for your rights….


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5 thoughts on “Harrassment at Devils Tower National Monument”

  1. That’s definitely a nuisance over something that is pretty clear. It’s great you are following up so hopefully others don’t have to endure the same.

  2. Dale-
    It’s disappointing that this continues to be an issue by well-intentioned (hopefully) but uniformed park staff. I experienced similar issues in both Grand Teton & Zion national parks as far back as 1993, although not quite as offensive as your experience. Fortunately, these experiences have been the exception, not the norm in respect to the many times I have visited national parks in the west. However, it goes to show the importance of being prepared with a copy of the agency’s own rules, which as I have discovered, most park staff have no real understanding of.

    I love your Amazed Prairie Dog image and caption. That combination got a real laugh out of me!

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