Special Use Permits

Special Use Authorizations

A special-use authorization is a legal document such as a permit, term permit, lease, or easement, which allows occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of NFS land. The authorization is granted for a specific use of the land for a specific period of time.

You will need an authorization:

  1. If you will need to occupy, use, or build on NFS land for personal or business purposes, whether the duration is temporary or long term.
  2. If there is a fee being charged or if income is derived from the use.
  3. If an activity on NFS land involves individuals or organization with 75 or more participants or spectators.

As set forth in law, the mission of the Forest Service is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple–use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people. "Special Uses" provides services supporting our national policy and federal land laws by authorizing uses on National Forest System (NFS) land. Special uses may involve everything from outfitting & guide activities, ski resorts, lodging, and marinas to energy transmission and development, commercial filming, and much more.

Each year, the Forest Service receives thousands of individual and business applications for authorization for use of National Forest System (NFS) land and carefully reviews each application to determine how the request affects the public's use of NFS land.

Normally, NFS land is not made available if the overall needs of the individual or business can be met on nonfederal lands.

Commercial Filming and Photography on National Forests in California

Aerial view photograph of California's Big Sur coastline, featuring waves crashing on rocks.

Commercial filming and photography may take place on Forest Service public lands (National Forests). Like other commercial uses of National Forest System lands or resources, commercial filming and photography requires a Special Use Permit, which is issued by the District Ranger or Forest Supervisor [Authorized Officer] of the relevant forest.

Wind Testing and Development on National Forests in California

A wind farm showing several turbines.

The Forest Service is nearing completion of wind energy directives to provide local officials guidance in making well-informed decisions in siting wind energy facilities on National Forest System (NFS) land. Proposed FS wind directives (draft policy) were published in the Federal Register in September 2007.



Regulations

  • 36 CFR 251.50—Scope

    This final rule clarifies requirements regarding the issuance of special use authorizations for activities involving National Forest System roads and trails. You may obtain copies from your local Forest Service office, law library, or by visiting the National Archives & Records Administration's Code of Federal Regulations website.

  • 36 CFR 251.58—Cost Recovery

    According to CFR 251.58, the Forest Service is authorized to assess fees to recover agency processing and monitoring costs for special use authorizations. Cost recovery fees are adjusted on an annual basis and are separate from any fees charged for the use and occupancy of National Forest System Lands.