RV “vloggers” fined, threatened with arrest for taking video in National Park


From RV Miles
Popular YouTubers and travel bloggers Kara and Nate (karaandnate.com) had a rough surprise when they were contacted recently by the National Park Service about filming in parks without a permit, and have made the decision to stop traveling to national parks altogether.

According to a video the couple posted on YouTube, threats of arrest warrants were made unless the couple responded to allegations that they filmed content on national park property. They promptly responded, and ultimately were issued a $1,000 fine and a ban from filming in parks in the future.

Kara and Nate’s videos in parks are no different than those made by most YouTubers (including some by us here at RV Travel), many of whom fly under the radar due to the fact that there’s little way for the NPS to know whether people are making money off the work. But Kara and Nate have been publishing quarterly income reports for years in order to help people realize their full-time travel dreams. Someone at the NPS caught wind of those reports and contacted the couple about their lack of commercial filming permits.

The National Park Service requires that anyone filming within parks “for a market audience with the intent of generating income” obtain a permit to film. Even if it’s just you walking behind Aunt Edna with your iPhone on a trail – if the intent is to make money, the NPS wants you to have a permit.

But what does “making money” mean? It’s not clear. If you are a vlogger (video blogger) who makes $4 off a video of your national park visit through YouTube monetization, are you “making money”? Clearly your expenses outweigh the income. But neither the law (16 U.S.C.460l-6d) nor the National Park Service’s policy deal with what “making money” or “market audience” mean. We’ve made $9.65 off of one of our latest podcast episode videos, which has some shots of our recent visit to Yellowstone. Will we receive a call?

Several individual parks have the following language on their websites: “Permits are required for any project that generates an electronic media, film, still photography or video production for television, the motion picture industry, public interest or private multi-media which consists of production crews and vehicles, broadcast equipment, props/sets, talent/actors, construction, trailers, housing, animals, or aircraft.” The second half would lead me to believe that someone with a camera and a tripod might not fall under a “commercial permit,” but there’s no consistency in language across the park service, and this language is not written into the actual law. Kara and Nate fall squarely in the “making money” category, but nobody knows where the line is.

The permit process requires a non-refundable application fee that ranges from $25 for students to $1,000 for feature films, with most content creators on the hook for $75-$300 that they won’t get back even if they’re denied. The permit is then free for smaller projects, as long as it’s 1-2 people and a tripod, doesn’t require supervision, and the filming process is short of 4 hours. That last part’s not going to work for most people filming their family vacation and slapping it up on YouTube. Beyond 4 hours, most YouTubers would be paying a $150/day shoot fee. The permit process also requires a 14-day advance submission, and for you to submit storyboards, scripts, maps, a schedule, etc. It’s clearly aimed at TV shows and films.

The National Park Service may want to consider this an opportunity. It’s time to re-examine what “commercial” filming means, and make clear guidelines on this issue, so that people know what to expect and can follow the law and regulations appropriately. Policies seem to reflect a time when you had professional filmmakers and you had visitors. The lines have certainly blurred over the last 20 years. I’ve reached out for comment.

See the video from Kara and Nate below. Jump to the 7:00 mark for the discussion of the incident.


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Charles Mohr
19 days ago

What I do not get is, when called on the carpet for breaking either policies, rules and even laws that do not suit personal agenda, more time is spent whining about it then actually doing something about it. BLM and NP has been around for a long time. In fact more time than most who are alive now. Operating under the notion that its easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission is absurd.

Any activity that derives for profit is considered a business activity. If you disagree with the current policy, rule or law, pay the fine and start a petition to make change for the future.

Whining about how you feel gets absolutely nothing done. It’s not what you say but rather what you do that gets shit done!

Jeff Campbell
17 days ago
Reply to  Charles Mohr


I don’t see them as whining, but rather informative to their viewers to what happened and what to ovoid. This particular incident was because of a drone flight that is against the rules in national parks and some other public held lands. One could say that they should have none better as you allude to “Operating under the notion that its easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission is absurd.” If everyone should know everything about anything then there is no need to warn us about plastic bags on our heads.

What I do find concerning is the fact that their financial information was accessed with out warrant or writ and that is now perfectly ok, but this is now the world we live in it appears.

15 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Campbell

Please read the whole thing before jabbering…

Kara and Nate have been publishing quarterly income reports for years in order to help people realize their full-time travel dreams

Jeff Campbell
13 days ago
Reply to  WEB

Wow, Thanks for the red flag!

Colleen Smith
19 days ago

What is so sad about this, is most YouTubers create content that inspires one to visit such NP’s. This action will only hinder its marketing to future potential visitors and in turn their own income potential in a negative way.

Dave Pellegrino
17 days ago
Reply to  Colleen Smith

wait…all tv shows that deal with travel etc create content to help entice folks to visit. They pay their fees and dues to create that content. No difference that I can see.

bill semion
19 days ago

It’s been just pointed out to me at a writer’s site that the couple actually was picked out because they were taking video WITH A DRONE. If this is true, flying any drone in a national park by anyone is illegal.

Tony Melton
9 days ago
Reply to  bill semion

Having a drone buzzing around could get out of control very quickly. Because if one can do it, a thousand can. Sort of like the helicopters in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Hiking to a nice waterfall loses it’s appeal when one cannot hear the water for the choppers overhead. Yes, I am aware that drones are fairly quiet, but they bring their own issues for the safety of the public and for animals that will be eventually be pursued by them. Sorry about their problem, but I see drones in national parks as being a definite no.

19 days ago

I just don’t get this??? What am I doing that is in question? Making money seems to be against the national law considering this information. NPS needs to revise this policy.
This is just another example or bureaucratic nonsense.

Joseph Patrick Lamoureux
19 days ago
Reply to  Donn

You’re right the bureaucratic nonsense is ridiculous I have filmed in so many national parks I have taken so many pictures and posted them and sent them to people all over this country for the national parks to go after these individuals for making a film is absolutely ridiculous. The national Park service needs to be charged with treason because that is not the American way this has got to stop they have made so many rules and regulations when it comes to our national parks that it’s almost impossible to go there and have a good time those parks are paid for by taxpayer dollars those Park rangers are paid for by taxpayer dollars they’re double dipping and it’s not right that is treason

Bob H.
19 days ago

You can take photos and video. You can post them on your social media page you can share them with friends and family. What you can not do in a National Park is fly a drone. They were fined for flying the drone and any activity related to flying the drone. The fact that they were taking video using a drone seems to be getting shoved to the background to make them seem like victims. When they clearly violated park policy. It doesn’t take much research to find out that you can’t fly a drone in a NP. Many have signs posted

15 days ago

Oh God, stop using “treason” for a reason for everything. Treason is defined as “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government”. Now stop making silly comments bellowing “TREASON!”.

20 days ago

How hard is it to get a permit from now on?

Dave G Houser
20 days ago

During my 41 year career as a professional travel photographer/writer, I’ve carried out shoots in roughly 50 national parks and my park photos have been marketed by major photo agencies (Corbis, Getty and Alamy) and have illustrated dozens of articles and guidebooks. I have yet to obtain a permit or pay a fee to the NPS. That is as it should be. I might make money on my words and photos — but those words and photos have probably attracted a lot of people to visit the parks. Permits and fees obviously have a place for large TV or video productions that require park staff assistance or that interfere with regular visitors. Beyond that, the government should THANK all of us hard working journalists who help them promote the world’s largest and finest system of national parks.

20 days ago

The irony is the posts on facebook, etc. is “FREE” publicity for the NPS. People are the best communicators of our parks offerings. Talk about “tripping over your “big” politically correct NPS feet!

15 days ago
Reply to  ChiefW78

I don’t think the NPS needs the “FREE publicity”. Posts on Facebook aren’t “for profit”, so this doesn’t apply.

Raul W Smith
20 days ago

The people who run the parks are generally very helpful. I started RVing in 1989. I purchased a metal detector and would go around a lake or desert areas looking for lost items. A camp host informed me I needed a permit from the park’s headquarters to do this. So I went there and got a permit. With it came a list of thing I could keep and things to be turned into the parks lost and found department. Turn-in items: vehicle and boat keys, wallets, dentures, expensive jewelry. Lost and Found dep.(may) have a list of lost items and they would try to return them. If not they were yours to keep. Just ask!

Dave Pellegrino
20 days ago

What gets me more is how the publisher/editor tries to headline it with words like threatened…etc. come’on man I’ll bet it was a standard communication. Also, as the article indicates, many other vloggers do the same thing. well…you know the saying…

I feel this article has more to do with getting readership/ad revenue than anything else.
I’m not deriding anyone or being abusive…so we’ll see if not being a sheeple gets me kicked out…

James Wills
20 days ago

If an individual has an issue with a federal bureaucracy call your congressperson and senator.
That is one of the reasons they are there for to help their constituents deal with the bureaucrats buracrap.

Metry ken
20 days ago

How would you like to pay a royalty to the park every time someone views your film? You make money and they make money. That would certainly be fair. Yes, let’s make I t all perfectly fair….. Pay the fine, shut up, and be happy that you made money off the park system and go on with life.

Heather Warner
20 days ago

Easy work around…don’t post those videos on a site where you get paid. Then you still have the content but have complied with the laws. If you want to get paid, then pony up for the fee. If you are making this a “business” operation then you must abide by the laws of business.

Lynda Balkema
20 days ago

The National Parks should be paying YOU for the promo. How sad, Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are so amazing. Petty people. Enjoy your travel, I hope to do the ” senior” version of your travels in two years, ” retirement on the road” Safe travels! Lynda B, MI

Gordon Nielson
20 days ago
Reply to  Lynda Balkema

The National Parks don’t need a (promo). At present they are underfunded and over ran with too many people. The parks are getting trashed and the Park Service doesn’t have enough money to sufficiently staff enough employees . So no, the Park Service doesn’t need any free publicity. I worked in Zion for 15 years and have personally witnessed the devastation caused by too many visitors.

Jeff dub
20 days ago

The same argument could be made that they were actually advertising or marketing for the national Park to encourage more people to visit the national Park in which I believe they should receive money for doing such from the national Park think of it as a tourism marketing

Victoria B
20 days ago
Reply to  Jeff dub

I love that! Perfect solution.

20 days ago

Seriously, give me a break! McConnell and Nancy P profit off of insider trading. BUT Kate and Nate touring the National Parks and sharing their stories and making some bucks are cheating? Get real!!!

Last edited 20 days ago by Kristin
Tommy Molnar
20 days ago
Reply to  Kristin

Excellent point.

15 days ago
Reply to  Kristin

They can make all the money they want IF they get a permit first. It is the same for all NPS properties, Even the memorials on the National Mall. No commercial photos inside the structure without a permit. The NPS is underfunded as it is. Fees from commercial users help lower fees for public users. They ought to double the fee for commercial users and cut the fees for the public.

20 days ago

1) I don’t follow this couple, but there are people who simply cannot visit these parks in person, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, that likely derive considerable vicarious pleasure from armchair travel. Does the NPS really want to deprive them of this? Or make it so costly ($150/day) for content producers that they reduce their creativity?

2) The national parks are not exactly cheap to visit for US citizens who actually own them. They are the property of US Citizens after all, and should be usable by US Citizens at reasonable rates. Including travel type video blogging provided there is no disruption of park usage by so doing and that no degradation or pollution of the parks is caused by the filming. One could even argue that allowing virtual travel blogs might reduce the harmful impact of humans on the parks, although the opposite may also occur due to publicity.

NP Lovers
20 days ago

Simple, play by the rules. Just cause you don’t feel it’s right, doesn’t mean you are right.
You are acting like spoiled rotten kids. You are not acting like adults. I’d love to see the whole ME generation get real jobs and be productive members of society. Just my opinion…. By the way Zion, Arches, and Grand Canyon are AWESOME….. Just finished a week seeing all the sites.

18 days ago
Reply to  NP Lovers

Exactly – don’t like the rules, talk to your congressional rep, and change it. Ignoring it makes you wrong!

20 days ago

Sorry…can’t feel sorry for these kids. These are the rules like it or not. They make money, this is their job. Suck it up to learning experience and move on.

20 days ago
Reply to  Jane

I would believe this rule is made for Hollywood, not the earning vacationer.

Did you tax the kids selling Lemonade in your neighborhood???

Cheryl Bacon
20 days ago
Reply to  rottenrollin

In a way yes, in many areas they need to get and pay for a permit. In some places they are banned altogether.

20 days ago
Reply to  Jane

don’t be stupid…..they have every right to film in any park which by the way are the People’s Parks….not the government!

Dogs and Horses
20 days ago
Reply to  Phorest

Sure. Filming their trip is fine. But they are actively using that filmed trip to profit. As a business. They need to obey the rules and buy the permit. Irs not a hard concept to grasp for honest people.

20 days ago

Sorry. Ja can’t feel sorry for these kids. These are he rules

Sandra S Thomas
20 days ago

Rivers need to contact their Congressperson.