Event and Commercial Permits

Groups and individuals frequently ask for special uses of forest land in Florida. The Forest Service must always weigh whether the proposed use is compatible with the values that make the national forest an irreplaceable forest – including plants, animals, beauty, clean air and water, recreation opportunities, and forest products.

What types of special use/event permits are there?

  • Non-commercial group use. This is an activity that involves 75 or more people, either as participants or spectators, where an entry or participation fee is not charged, and the primary purpose is not the sale of a goods or service. Examples include weddings, family reunions, church services, camping trips, hikes, and music festivals.
  • Commercial recreation events, regardless of the number of participants. Examples include dogsled, bicycle, motocross, or triathlon type races, jeep rallies, fishing contests, adventure games, youth treks, and concerts.
  • Filming and commercial photography.
  • Outfitting and guiding. This includes spotting vehicles, transporting persons, and providing equipment, supplies and services.
  • Utility rebuilds. Examples include realignment or reconstruction of existing authorized utilities, substantial line clearing.
  • Research permits
  • Continued permitted uses of an expiring special use permit.
  • Recreation Residence - see below for more information
  • National Defense Land Use - see below for more information
  • Easement and Land Use Permits - this can include roads, right-of-ways and other types of land use. See below for Road Use Permits information.


How Long Does Taking a Special Use Permit Take?

Most permits require at least 90 days to be processed, sometimes more depending on how complex the permit is.

Applicants for special-use permits should note that the permitting process can, depending on the request, be time-consuming. It may require multi-step National Forest Management Act analysis and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation, and ultimately may not be approved.

The Forest Service will evaluate special-use applicants to see if they are in the public interest. At a minimum, these proposals should be

  • Consistent with Forest Plan management area objectives, standards, and desired future conditions
  • Consistent with other applicable Federal, State, and local statutes and regulations
  • Not be undertaken on national forest land if they can be reasonably accommodated on private land.


What Information Do I need to Provide?

Please contact your local Forest Service office for an application form. Information required for application includes

  • proposed use,
  • timeframe,
  • a map of the location,
  • and reason why the use cannot be accommodated on Non-Federal lands.

Permit holders with recurring uses (permits issued for more than one year) must submit annually required information to the Forest Service (annual operating plan, insurance, etc.) by the date specified in their permit.


Read More About:

Recreation Residences

A generation ago, the USDA Forest Service had a national program intended to increase recreational use of national forests. This program permitted private individuals to build unobtrusive recreation residences in designated sites on the national forest. Many of these private residences still exist and continue to be regulated by the Forest Service.

  • The Forest Service will no longer issue recreation residence permits on lots not occupied by an existing recreation residence. Should a recreation residence permit be revoked due to noncompliance, the Forest Service will not reissue the permit and the lot will no longer be available for recreation residence use.
  • Should a recreation residence be destroyed by a catastrophic event and the permittee decides not to rebuild, the Forest Service will not reissue the permit. The permittee has 180 days to decide and one year after the decision date to complete the rebuilding.
  • Recreation residences are generally sold through local realtors. The permit is then terminated in the previous owner’s name and reissued in the new owner’s name.
  • The lease fee for each permit will vary according to its location in the forest and the surrounding land value.
  • Recreation residences are to be used as secondary residences and proof of primary residence is required.
  • The permit includes an operation and maintenance plan that contains guidelines for improvements and general upkeep.
  • The Forest Service performs scheduled inspections to ensure these terms and conditions are observed. Noncompliance with this operation and maintenance plans can result in a revoked permit.


National Defense Land Use

Several branches of the military utilize federal land in the Ocala National Forest for training exercises. Special Use Permits are issued to branches such as the National Guard, Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC), US Army Special Forces and the US Navy.

Most of the permits are for short periods of time, issued for each individual outing. The Forest Service and the US Navy have a longer agreement for the use of the Pinecastle Bombing Range. This range was established by the Army Air Corps in 1943 and has been in continuous use by the US Navy since the early 1950's to train aircrews and support personnel.

Parts of the Ocala National Forest are temporarily closed during training exercises. Visitors are advised to check the Alerts and Notices page on this website for temporary area closures.


Current training plans indicate that the Navy may need to close gates for public safety between January 12, 2021 and February 12, 2021


The Pinecastle Range is a critical asset to the Navy’s Global Maritime Strategy and the war against terror. It ensures naval air wing components qualify in strike warfare training, command and control, power projection, and air defense missions.

The Navy often employs simulators and synthetic training assets to provide early skill repetition and to enhance teamwork, but live training in a realistic environment such as the Pinecastle Range, Ocala National Forest, Florida is absolutely necessary to ensure success in combat. This element of training cannot be simulated by any other means.

The Navy understands and recognizes the potential for training activities to affect the community and takes proactive steps to minimize these impacts on citizens and the environment.


Road Use Permits

Special use permits may be granted for easements to landlocked property within the National Forests in Florida.

Under special circumstances, the Forest Service considers applications for road easements for access to private property. Easements are granted only if no other reasonable access is possible.

Occasionally, the Forest Service seeks easements from other landowners when there is a demonstrated need for the access and the road or trail cannot be accommodated on national forest land.

When feasible, the Forest Service will issue a single easement to a collective group, such as a homeowner’s association, that could share the travel way rather than issue individual easements.