Outfitting and Guiding

In 2020, The Carson and Santa Fe National Forests issued a letter to interested parties about updates regarding the outfitter and guiding process.

This Current list of Permitted Outfitter/Guides and Events have been issued special use authorizations to provide services on Carson National Forest.

Commercial Outfitting and Guiding is a use that occurs on National Forest System lands where:

  1. Where an entry or participation fee is charged, or
  2. 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).


Guiding - Providing services or assistance (such as supervision, protection, education, training, packing, touring, subsistence, transporting people, or interpretation) for pecuniary remuneration or other gain to individuals or groups on National Forest System lands.  The term "guide" includes the holder's employees and agents.

Outfitting - Renting on or delivering to National Forest System lands for pecuniary remuneration or other gain any saddle or pack animal, vehicle, boat, camping gear, or similar supplies or equipment.  The term "outfitter" includes the holder's employees and agents.

Objective of Outfitting/Guiding

  1. Provide for outfitting and guiding services that address concerns of public health and safety and that foster successful small businesses consistent with the applicable land management plan.
  2. Facilitate greater participation in the outfitting and guiding program by organizations and businesses that work with youth and educational groups.
  3. Encourage skilled and experienced individuals and entities to conduct outfitting and guiding activities in a manner that protects environmental resources and ensures that national forest visitors receive high-quality services.

When Permits Are Required

  1. Individuals or entities conducting outfitting or guiding activities on National Forest System lands shall be authorized under a special use permit.
  2. Outfitters based off National Forest System lands who rent and deliver equipment or livestock to the public on National Forest System lands shall obtain a permit if they, their employees, or agents occupy or use National Forest System lands or related waters in connection with their rental programs.
  • For example, a permit is required if a boat livery operator provides service, including delivery or pickup of boats, at sites on National Forest System lands.
  • No permit is necessary if an operator's customers transport rented equipment to and from National Forest System lands or if services are provided to Forest Service employees, Forest Service contractors, or other Federal officials in the course of their official duties.

Outfitter/Guide Permits

New outfitting and guiding permits may be issued when one or more of the following occurs:

  • An allocation of use is increased, a resource capacity analysis demonstrates that capacity exists, or a needs assessment supports a public need.
  • A permit is revoked or terminates, and a new permit is not issued to the holder.
  • Service days or quotas allocated to a holder are reduced. 
  • Competitive interest in an area or activity arises where no outfitting and guiding permits have been issued for that area or activity and where the proposed use is consistent with the applicable programmatic or project decision.
  • An application has been submitted to provide outfitting and guiding services for an area or activity that has not previously been authorized and for which there is no competitive interest.  For opportunities in which competitive interest exists, solicit applications through issuance of a prospectus; if no competitive interest exists and for an application meeting the criteria above, a permit may be issued if the applicant meets applicable requirements.


Outfitter/Guide Fees

Flat fee for Temporary use Permits (FSH 2709.11 37.21b)

Number of Service Days Flat Fee Maximum Gross Revenue for Each Bracket of Service Days*
1 to 50 $150 $10,000
51 to 100 $300 $20,000
101 to 150 $450 $30,000
151 to 200 $600 $40,000

*A service day is counted for service to a client for any part of a day on National Forest System lands.  If the gross revenue exceeds the bracket maximum, then a fee of 3% of the gross will apply.   

Cost Recovery Fees

The cost recovery fee covers the administrative and personnel costs associated with issuing the permit. There is a separate fee for both processing and monitoring. If the permit takes more than 50 hours to process or monitor these fees apply. This table illustrates this.


Permit holders are required to furnish or arrange for appropriate liability insurance. The minimum limits can be found below or in the Forest Service Manual (FSM).

The Insurance Policy must also meet all the following conditions:

  1. They name the U.S. Government as additional insured.
  2. They meet the minimum coverage requirements for the authorized activities shown in above or as required by state law or regulation.
  3. They include an appropriate 30-day notification clause in case of cancelation or amendment of coverage.  When premiums are paid in full prior to use, 10-day notification of cancellation for non-payment of premiums is acceptable.
  4. The exclusions (if any) listed on the Certificate of Insurance do not include any of the activities/operations authorized by the permit.
  5. Some insurance policies stipulate that coverage for legal defense costs and supplementary payments is limited, and any payment of legal defense costs or supplementary payments reduces the limits of remaining coverage.  When holders' activities are covered by policies containing this stipulation, authorized officers shall require the holder to have liability coverage greater than the minimum shown in preceding direction.  For example, if the required minimum shown is $300,000, and the policy has the legal defense cost stipulation, the authorized officer shall require $500,000 coverage.  If the minimum shown is $500,000, the authorized officer shall require $1,000,000 coverage.

Liability Insurance Minimum Limits

Outfitter and Guide Service - (FSM 2721.53)
Type of Special Use Required Minimum Coverage or CSL
Saddle and Pack Stock 25/500/500 - $500,000
Nordic Skiing: Non-Avalanche Areas 25/300/300 - $300,000
Nordic Skiing: Avalanche Areas 25/500/500 - $500,000
Back Packing 25/300/300 - $300,000
Rock Climbing 25/500/500 - $500,000
Bicycling 25/500/500 - $500,000
Nature Hikes 25/300/300 - $300,000
Running Clinics 25/300/300 - $300,000
Snowmobiling 25/300/300 - $300,000
Rafting and Boating (Class I-III) 25/500/1000 - $1,000,000
Rafting and Boating (Class IV-V) 25/500/500 - $500,000
Jeep/UTV/ATV Tours 25/500/500 - $500,000
Rental Services - (FSM 2721.54)
Type of Special Use Required Minimum Coverage or CSL
Rental Services 25/100/300 - $300,000
Winter Sports Resorts - (FSM 2721.61)
Type of Special Use Required Minimum Coverage or CSL
Nordic Skiing: Non-Avalanche Areas 25/300/500 - $500,000
Nordic Skiing: With Avalanche Areas 25/500/500 - $500,000
Alpine Skiing 50/500/2000 - $2,000,000
Avalanche Training 25/500/1000 - $1,000,000
Still Photography - (FSM 2725.51)
Type of Special Use Required Minimum Coverage or CSL
Still Photography 25/100/300 - $300,000
Commercial Filming - (FSM 2725.53)
Type of Special Use Required Minimum Coverage or CSL
Commercial Filming 25/100/300 - $300,000

Waivers and Acknowledgement of Risk Forms

Insurance companies often require that their policy holders use Waivers of Liability and/or Acknowledgement of Risk forms.  Even when not an insurance company requirement, special use authorization holders frequently require that their customers sign one or both of these forms before participating in an activity provided by the holder.  The Carson National Forest will be complying with the following policy direction:

  1. Appropriately worded Acknowledgement of Risk forms required by insurance companies or special use authority holders are acceptable View sample.
  2. Do not permit use of Waiver of Liability forms (Sample) except for high risk recreation events, such as enduros, road rallies, equestrian events, hang-gliding contests, and so forth.  Many of the forms used for these purposes are unacceptable, because they would have the participant release the U.S. Government from liability for its own negligence. This conflicts with the intent of Congress in the Federal Tort Claims Act, which makes the Federal Government liable for the negligence of its officers and employees acting within the course and scope of their employment. Additionally, these forms may be at variance with state law.

We will not be allowing these forms for guiding where there is a guide in full custody and control of their clients.

Use of Contractors

Independent contractors/subcontractors may be used for guiding for your business if they are approved prior to trips and when the following conditions apply:

  1. Ancillary services (food and shuttle services, specialized guide for people with disabilities or for highly technical trips) that support the use authorized by the permit may be provided by a party other than the holder or the holder’s employees only with prior written approval from the authorized officer.
  2. An authorized holder may contract with a guide, but only with the prior written approval of the authorized officer, based upon a finding that the following conditions are met (see below for contractor agreement sample):
    1. The services of the contracted guide are covered under the contracting holder’s operating plan and liability insurance.
    2. The contracted guide has all required State licenses.
    3. The contract for the guiding services states that the contracting holder remains responsible for compliance with all the terms and conditions of the permit, including the operating plan.
    4. The contracting holder will exercise management authority over all the day-to-day field operations of the business, including the guiding services covered by the contract.
  3. Permit holders who would like to contract for guiding services must submit the contract for these services and additional documentation (State Guide License if applicable, Insurance Certificate stating that contractors are covered).  This documentation must be submitted for approval during the start of season process. The permit holder contracting for guiding services is responsible for compliance with all the terms and conditions of the permit in connection with provision of those services.
  4. When on a particular day a permit holder lacks sufficient equipment or guides to accommodate the holder’s customers, the permit holder, without prior written approval from the authorized officer, may contract for additional equipment or guides from another permit holder. When a holder contracts for additional equipment or guides from another holder, the contracting holder is responsible for compliance with all the terms and conditions of the permit in connection with provision of the contracted equipment and services (this includes reporting the user days on your actual use report and making note it was a contracted trip and with whom).


Temporary use permits are limited to a 180 period and a maximum allocation of 200 service days. 

Outfitter/Guide FAQ

Current list of Permitted Outfitter and Guides  (a non-comprehensive list of companies authorized to guide on the Carson National Forest

Carson  National Forest site-specific restrictions:

There is limited capacity in Cruces Basin Wilderness, Trout Lakes area, Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Pecos Wilderness, The Questa Eastside Management compartment, and Camino Real Eastside Management Compartment.  Applicants are encouraged to check availability with the appropriate ranger district.

Research Natural Areas: commercial outfitting and guiding will not be authorized within Research Natural Areas.

Some trails originating on Ghost Ranch private property are not available for guided use.


The following information is required to be included on your website, flyers, posters and brochures:  Advertising Requirements

You are not authorized to advertise until you have applied for and received notification of acceptance of your application for processing.  You must submit all advertising for review and approval prior to posting, printing or airing.  Please contact the associated office on the Carson National Forest for more information as well as to apply for a permit.

Civil Rights & Accessibility

Who is required to comply with Federal Civil Rights laws? 

If you are a holder of a special use authorization from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service to provide programs or activities to the public, by law you must provide equal opportunity for all people to participate in the programs and activities you offer.

Submitting Temporary Use Permit Requests

Step 1) Submit Proposal

All hunting proposals, temporary use applications and required annual operating documents are due no later than June 1, annually. For non-hunting activities, submit ALL temporary use proposals and applications at least 180 days ahead of your intended start of operations. A written or oral proposal should include the following information:

  • the services to be performed,
  • proposed number of service days or quotas,
  • specific locations of National Forest System lands to be occupied,
  • modes of transportation to be used,
  • proposed season of use and itinerary,
  • and other matters relating to your operations in sufficient detail for the authorized officer to make a decision on the request in accordance with regulatory requirements,
  • describe proponent’s technical and financial qualifications to provide the proposed services.

Step 2) Submit Application Package

If your proposal is accepted, we move forward to the application phase and the following documentation must be submitted for review:

Temporary Outfitter/Guide Application

Temporary Outfitter/Guide Application Instructions

Sample Acknowledgement of Risk Form

Contracted Services Endorsement Sample

Actual use Report

Hunting Temporary Use Application Package

Applicant Checklist - Hunting

Hunting Temporary Use Operating Plan – Appx A

Hunting Trip Itinerary – Appx B

Multi-District Approval Request – Appx D

Non-Hunting Activity Temporary Use Application Package

Applicant Checklist – Non-hunting

Temporary Use Operating Plan – Appx A

Trip Itinerary – Appx B

Multi-District Approval Request – Appx D


Note: To receive a copy of a document needed in the application package, please contact the ranger district where you intend to operate. 

Resource: Leave No Trace Online Awareness Course 

Priority Use Permits

Priority use proposals are due bi-annually, no later than January 1 and June 1.  The Carson National Forest is not currently accepting applications for priority use.  It is expected acceptance can begin June 2021.

Guide companies that plan to operate their business on the Carson National Forest year after year may qualify for a priority use permit after a two-year probationary term outfitter-guide permit. Some benefits that come with a priority use permit include:

  • Permits will be authorized for up to 10-years 
  • When a priority use permit terminates, the permit is subject to renewal without competition, provided that the use authorized by the permit is consistent with the applicable land management plan, applicable laws and regulations, and the terms of the permit and the holder has performed satisfactorily as demonstrated by acceptable performance ratings. 
  • In renewing a priority use permit, the authorized officer may prescribe new terms and conditions. 
  • Change in ownership for a priority use permit:
    • A priority use permit is a privilege acquired by demonstrated acceptable performance and is not transferable, either upon the sale of the business entity or the sale of a controlling interest in the business entity,
    • The permit is not real property, does not convey any interest in real property, and may not be used as collateral,
    • Upon consummation of a change of ownership of or controlling interest in the business entity, the holder's permit terminates, and
    • The party who acquires ownership of or a controlling interest in the business entity may be issued a permit if the authorized officer determines that the prospective holder meets Forest Service requirements, including financial and technical capability.
  • The service day allocationcan be more than 200 service days per year
  • Less paperwork is required each year for your permit requirements

For more information, please contact the Carson National Forest Special Use Coordinator, Carmen John, at carmen.john@usda.gov.

How to Transition from Temporary to Priority Use

The outfitter/guide business will need to submit an application to the forest.

Must complete two-year probationary term before being eligible to apply for a priority use permit. Acceptance as a priority use permit will be dependent on documentation of satisfactory performance as a temporary permit holder.  Monitoring will be based on the following:

  • Submits financial paperwork in a timely manner
  • No delinquent fees
  • No violations of law, customer complaints, or adverse outfitting and guiding performance ratings
  • Must have the financial/technical capability of operating a successful business for 10+ years. This will be shown by completing and submitting a business plan in addition to your application materials.