Event/Commercial Permits

Forest Service Special Use Program

The Forest Service manages 191.6 million acres of national forests and grasslands that comprise the National Forest System (NFS). Today, our growing population and mobile society have created a demand for a variety of uses of these lands. Often these diverse needs require specific approval. The Forest Service provides services that support our national policy and federal land laws. The Agency’s special-uses program authorize uses on NFS land that provide a benefit to the general public and protect public and natural resources values. Currently there are over 72,000 authorizations on the national forests and grasslands for 200 types of uses.

Each year, the Forest Service receives thousands of individual and business applications for authorization for use of NFS land for such activities as water transmission, agriculture, outfitting and guiding, recreation, telecommunication, research, photography and video productions, and granting road and utility rights of- ways. The Forest Service 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.


Outfitter and Guide Permits

Commercial outfitters and guides provide important skills and services to help National Forest visitors enjoy activities they may not be able to participate in on their own. Activities may include commercially guided fishing and hunting trips; float trips and guided tours. A special-use permit is required to authorize these activities on National Forest System (NFS) lands, and designated wild and scenic rivers.

A special-use permit encourages skilled and experienced individuals, organizations and companies to conduct outfitting and guiding activities in a manner that assures National Forest visitors receive safe services of high quality. The permit also provides a mechanism for getting a fair value return for the use of public land, and to exercise oversight of commercial use.

Commercial use or activities that require a special-use permit include any use or activity on NFS lands where an entry or participation fee is charged, or where the primary purpose is the sale of a good or service and, in either case, regardless of whether the use or activity is intended to produce a profit (36 CFR 251.51). On the Allegheny National Forest, these commercial activities require a special-use permit:

  • Wild and Scenic River System. Portions of the Allegheny and Clarion Rivers are federally designated wild and scenic rivers. In accordance with Wild and Scenic Rivers Act management policies and federal regulations (36 CFR 261.10 (k), the Allegheny National Forest requires all commercial outfitters and guides using the Allegheny and Clarion Rivers under Forest Service jurisdiction have a special-use permit. Although a commercial user may have obtained a Concessionaire Agreement from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to use the Clarion River, a separate Forest Service special-use permit is still required.
  • Outfitting is renting on or delivering to NFS lands any saddle or pack animal, vehicle, boat, camping gear, or similar supplies or equipment for monetary or other gain. The holder's employees and agents are also included in this definition. If you provide any of these services on NFS land, then you must obtain a special-use permit. (FSH 2709.14)
  • Guiding is providing services or assistance (such as supervision, protection, education, training, packing, touring, subsistence, transporting people, or interpretation) for monetary or other gain to individuals or groups on NFS lands. The holder's employees and agents are also included in this definition. If you provide any of these services on NFS land, then you must obtain a special-use permit. (FSH 2709.14)
  • Wilderness Areas. Any commercial use of the Allegheny National Forest’s two wilderness areas (Allegheny Islands Wilderness and Hickory Creek Wilderness), requires a special-use permit.

Applying for an outfitter or guide special use permit

A special-use permit is a temporary authority that grants rights or privileges of occupancy and use to the holder (a holder is an individual or entity that holds a special-use permit authorizing outfitting and guiding activities on NFS lands). These permits contain specific terms and conditions the holder must follow. Before special-use permits are issued, the Forest Service must determine that the proposed use complies with all management plans and laws, that there is a demonstrated need for the activity, and the use is appropriate on NFS lands.

If you intend to provide a commercial outfitter or guide service on the Allegheny National Forest, you should first contact the Permit Administrator at either the Bradford Ranger District, 814.362.6000 or at the Marienville Ranger District, 814.927.5700.  The administrator will set up a pre-application meeting to discuss your proposal and explain the process of becoming an outfitter and guide on the Allegheny National Forest.

Please be aware that there are fees associated with obtaining a special-use permit. In addition, an outfitter and guide special-use permit holder must carry liability insurance, meet state certification requirements and offer their services as an equal opportunity provider and employer.

What happens if I don’t have a special-use permit?

Failing to obtain a special-use permit for conducting commercial use and activities on National Forest System lands is a Class B misdemeanor. (36 CFR 261.10)  The maximum penalty is $5,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment for an individual or a $10,000 fine for an organization.

For more information

Contact the permit administrator at the Bradford or Marienville Ranger Districts.

Other information