Special Use Permits - Commercial Filming & Photography

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. 

Prior to the issuance of a permit, the Forest Service will determine if there are any environmental concerns in the proposed filming or photo shoot location. The Forest Service may deny permits for practices prohibited on NFS lands. 

Commercial filming and photography requests must be submitted to the relevant National Forest office (see below for contact information) 4 weeks in advance of anticipated filming date. Complex projects may require additional processing time.  In order to expedite a filming request, please be aware of the following considerations: 

Commercial filming is defined as use of motion picture, videotaping, sound-recording, or any other type of moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, and/or the use of actors, models, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news. For purposes of this definition, creation of a product for sale includes a film, videotape, time lapse, television broadcast, or documentary of historic events, wildlife, natural events, features, subjects or participants in a sporting or recreation event, and so forth, when created for the purpose of generating income. 

Commercial photography is defined as the use of photographic equipment to capture still images on film, digital format, and other similar technologies found on National Forest System lands that: takes place at a location where members of the public are generally not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely; or uses models, sets, or props that are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities. 

Wilderness areas are congressionally-designated areas on federal lands that are subject to specific management restrictions; human activities are restricted to non-motorized recreation (such as backpacking, mountaineering, horseback riding, etc.), scientific research, and other non-invasive activities. Wilderness Areas occur on Forest Service (Department of Agriculture) lands, as well as on lands managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of Interior). A special use permit may only be issued for commercial photography or filming on a US Forest Service Wilderness Area if the activity has a primary objective of disseminating information about the use and enjoyment of wilderness, is wilderness-dependent and an appropriate non-wilderness substitute does not exist, and the activity would not involve the use of any motorized equipment or mechanical transport. 


The Forest Service may require liability insurance and/or performance bonds to protect the public interest. Typically, one (1) million dollars in general liability may be required. Up to five (5) million may be required for activities that involve the use of a helicopter. 


Land Use Fee 

The land use fee is based upon the numbers of days filming or photography activities take place and the size of the film/photography crew. 

Fees for commercial filming (motion picture and television location) 

  • 1-10 persons = $150.00/per day;
  • 11-30 = $200.00/per day;
  • 31-60 persons = $500.00/per day;
  • Over 60 persons = $600.00/per day 

Fees for still photography (if permit required) 

  • 1-10 persons = $50.00/per day;
  • 11-30 = $150.00/per day;
  • Over 30 persons = $250.00/per day 

Cost Recovery Fees: separate fee for both processing and monitoring 

The cost recovery fee covers the administrative and personnel costs associated with issuing the permit. A separate fee applies to both processing and monitoring.   

Submitting Requests 

For submitting a filming permit request please allow at least 4 weeks for processing your application before filming is scheduled to begin. Complex projects may require additional processing time.  Below you will find the proposal and application that must be filled out and submitted to the appropriate permit administrator. Filming Proposal Form