Special Use Permits

Permits may be required for certain special activities, such as large groups (75 people or more), educational activities, or weddings. In general, permits are necessary for any activity that requires the forest to be altered in any way.

A Special Use Authorization is a permit that grants rights or privileges of occupancy and use subject to specified terms and conditions on National Forest land. These permits use to authorize a broad range of activities.

Please contact any Ranger District Office for information about any special use permits.

More Information

Various groups and individuals regularly approach the Forest Service with requests to use national forest lands for an array of diverse activities. The Forest Service must always weigh whether the proposed use is compatible with the values that make the national forest an irreplaceable forest – including plants, animals, beauty, clean air and water, recreation opportunities, and forest products.

Certain commercial recreation activities require a Special Use Permit (for example: fishing tournaments, rental of boats, trail rides, etc). If you are using a paid guide for activities occurring on National Forest lands, the guide is usually required to have a special use permit. Please ask the guide or contact the closest Forest Service office to learn if your guide has a Forest Service permit or for information on obtaining a permit.

Applicants for special-use permits should note that the permitting process is time-consuming, may require multi-step National Forest Management Act analysis and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation, and ultimately may not be approved. The Forest Service will evaluate special-use applicants to see if they are in the public interest.

At a minimum, these proposals should: be consistent with Forest Plan management area objectives, standards, and desired future conditions; be consistent with other applicable Federal, State, and local statutes and regulations; and not be undertaken on national forest land if they can be reasonably accommodated on private land.

For Temporary Special Use Permit (Events), Easements and Land Uses, special use permits are required. Most permits require at least 90 days to be processed and must be acquired from the appropriate Ranger Station.

What are noncommercial group uses?

Noncommercial group uses are any activity conducted on NFS lands involving 75 or more people, either as participants or spectators, in which (a) no entry or participation fee is charged, and (b) the primary purpose of the activity is not the sale of a good or service. Examples of noncommercial activities include club or family recreation outings, reunions, and weddings. No permit fee, bonding, or insurance is required for noncommercial group uses.

Who needs a permit?

A permit is required for all noncommercial group uses involving more than 75 people.

How do I apply?

Contact the district office in the area where you wish to have your activity. You must complete an application providing (1) the applicant's name and mailing address; (2) if the applicant is an organization, the name of an individual authorized to receive notice of the decision on the application; (3) a description of the activity; (4) the location and description of the NFS lands and facilities you would like to use; (5) the estimated number of participants and spectators; (6) the starting and ending date and time of the activity; and (7) the name of the person or persons 21 years of age or older who will sign the permit on behalf of the applicant. The application must be received by the local ranger district office at least 72 hours in advance of your activity.

How long will it take to get a permit?

All applications for noncommercial group uses will be deemed granted unless denied within 48 hours of receipt. If your application is granted, a permit will be issued prior to the start of your activity.

What will the Forest Service consider in evaluating my application?

Applications will be granted if they meet the following eight evaluation criteria (for details on the eight criteria, particularly on criteria 5 and 6, review the Code of Federal Regulations at 36 C.F.R. 251.54 (h)(1)):

  1. Authorization of the activity is not prohibited by rules or orders that apply to the national forests or by federal, state, or local law related to the content of activity.
  2. Authorization of the activity is consistent or can be made consistent with standards and guidelines in the forest plan that apply to the area where the activity will take place.
  3. The activity does not materially impact the characteristics or functions of environmentally sensitive resources or lands.
  4.  The activity will not delay, halt, or prevent administrative use of an area by the Forest Service or other scheduled or existing activities on NFS lands.
  5. The activity does not violate state and local public health laws and regulations applicable to the site proposed for the activity.
  6. The activity will not pose a substantial danger to public safety.
  7. The activity does not involve military or paramilitary training or exercises by private organizations or individuals, unless such training or exercises are federally funded.
  8. A person (or persons) 21 years of age or older has been designated to sign and do sign a permit on behalf of the applicant.

If your application is denied and an alternative time, place, or manner will allow you to meet all the evaluation criteria, the Forest Service will offer that alternative.