Research Permit Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do researchers need special use permits to conduct research on National Forest Lands?

  •  Federal Regulations mandate that all commercial and non-commercial uses of Forest Lands be accounted for by special use permits.  All research proposals require some level of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis to allow research activities to occur on National Forest Lands.
  • Many activities occur on the forest that may conflict with research projects, such as group recreational events, routine utility corridor maintenance, tree thinning, Christmas tree cutting, prescribed burns, new land designations, and proposed land exchanges.  Knowledge of research activities by Forest Service Staff can help minimize undesirable impacts to research projects.
  • The Forest Service has a wealth of information about its land and resources.  Its specialists can direct researchers to areas most appropriate for their needs, as well as offer information on management history or historical events such as wildfires.  Research permits facilitate this communication.
  •  The Forest Service benefits from data that researchers provide.  New information from researchers can be incorporated into Forest Service databases and used to improve management.  Consequently, a summary of findings (e.g., copies of theses, dissertations, papers) from permitted research on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland (ARP) should be provided to the Forest Service upon completion of the study.
  •   To promote and facilitate integration and coordination of complementary research projects. Spatial data on the location of all permitted research projects will be maintained on a forest-wide GIS map accessible to the ARP. Efforts will be made to link complementary projects and promote interdisciplinary research.

2. Do I need additional permits?

Maybe, if your project involves wildlife or TES plants you may need authorization from Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  If you are unsure you may contact those agencies directly, or speak with the Forest Service Lands and Realty Staff.

3. Who should apply?

Principal Investigators (PIs) of all research projects located on lands managed by the ARP.  Research by graduate students also must list their major professor as a PI. The person who signs the permit is the person who will be responsible for compliance with all terms and conditions.  Failure to obtain a special use permit for research violates Forest Service Policy and Federal environmental regulations, and may jeopardize completion of the research

4. When do I apply?

A complete application, including maps, must be received at least 60 days prior to the planned start date.  However, if the project is complex, multi-year, involves plants or wildlife, includes ground disturbance, has construction, or will leave instrumentation in place, additional time may be needed for consultation with other agencies.   The specialist needed to review the proposal may not be available during field season or during events such as wildfire, so the earlier a proposal is received the more likely it will be processed.

5. How do I know if my proposal requires archaeological clearance or biological assessment/evaluation?

If your project meets the criteria below, archaeological clearance and biological assessment/evaluation are probably not needed.

  •  Cumulative ground disturbance less than 1 m2
  • No use of noisy, mechanized equipment
  • No equipment, instruments, or sampling devices stored overnight at study area 
  • No live trapping or destructive sampling of animals
  • Measurement and sampling of vegetation will not kill individual plants directly or indirectly

If your project meets the criteria below, archaeological clearance and biological assessment/evaluation may be needed.

  • Cumulative ground disturbance greater than 1 m2
  • Takes place in a known heritage area
  •  Includes prescribed fire
  • Occasional or continuous use of noisy, mechanized equipment
  •  Equipment, instruments, or sampling devices stored overnight at study area in temporary containers (e.g., small enclosures, boxes)
  •  Live trapping or destructive sampling of animals
  • Vegetation sampling or measurement that kills individual plants
  •  Construction of buildings or other permanent structures at the research area
  •  Research personnel live or camp at the research area for more than two weeks per year

6. Can researchers arrange archaeological and biological surveys for their projects?

The Forest Service must consider a variety of issues, including potential impacts to archaeological and cultural resources.  If an archaeologist reviews a proposal and it includes potential impacts to archaeological and cultural resources, the Section 106 process in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act must be completed prior to approval and implementation.  The ARP has a limited number of days each year for their archaeologists to provide surveys, consultations with potentially affected tribes, and clearances in support of research permit proposals.  However, this work must be scheduled into the existing workload, and timelines to complete this process can vary from a few days to months.  If the timeline for the Forest Service to prepare a clearance is too long, the research applicant has the option of paying an archaeological consultant to conduct a survey and prepare an archaeological clearance for the proposal (if no significant places of traditional cultural importance are involved).  A list of consultants permitted to conduct archaeological work on the ARP is available upon request.  This work will need to be coordinated with the Forest Service archaeologists well in advance, as they will need to review, accept, and submit any "out service" work to the State Historic Preservation Officer.


Similarly, some projects may require biological or botanical surveys that cannot be quickly incorporated into planned workloads of Forest Service staff.  To avoid delay in such projects, the research applicant can arrange for the required survey and analysis of project impacts to be completed by non-Forest Service personnel if approved by the Forest Service.  In this case, survey and analysis information will be submitted to the Forest Service for review.

7. What information is needed to process your proposal?

  • PI name, phone number, and email address; name and address of PI's research organization/department.
  • Statement of the scope and purpose of the research:  Please be concise and avoid non-essential jargon as several different resource specialists will review the proposal.  You may attach your formal proposal in case additional information is needed.
  • Exact location of the project:  We can't stress this requirement enough.  GIS maps and topo maps at a 1:24,000 scale are recommended.  The location of your project needs to be compared with maps of archaeological sites and threatened and endangered species (TES).  If you have large plots, the perimeter must be defined.  If you have small plots or sites, dots on the map will do.
  • Methods used:  Please provide specific information about how the research will be accomplished on the ground.  This includes the following information:

o   The area encompassed by the research:  how it will be designated, laid out on the ground, and identified.

o   Activities associated with the research:  measurements, sampling methods, frequency and duration of entry into an area, equipment used, and the specific amount and nature of ground disturbance (depth, and dimensions).  Providing detailed information about methods will facilitate review.  Failure to provide sufficient details may result in a delay in review.

  • Time of the year and frequency of site visits, including the number of visitors:  This information is critical to evaluate potential research impacts to TES and other forest resources.  If research is in the proximity of a known TES, consideration of the number of people in the area and the timing and frequency of their visits is important.
  • Duration of research:  Estimate the likely duration of the research activities.
  • Planned access – please let us know how you intend to get to your project site.  Will you be walking in, do you plan to drive, is the site behind a closed gate? 

Failure to provide this information may delay review of your proposal.

8. What is the review process, and where do I submit proposals for review?

Proposals should be submitted to the Lands and Realty Staff at the district on which the activity is planned.  If the project will be forest-wide proposals may be submitted to the Lands and Realty Staff in the Supervisor’s Office.   Once received the proposal will be evaluated for potential impacts to the forests or grassland and to determine the level of NEPA required.


9.  Is there anything else I need to know?

Research permits are usually short-term in nature.  The expiration date of your permit can be found in the upper left hand corner.  At the conclusion of your permit all equipment must be removed from National Forest System lands.  A copy of your research findings must be provided to the Forest Service. 

9.  Where are your offices located?

Please see our office locations