Permit Reminders for Outfitters and Guides

(Gladstone/Munising/Rapid River/Manistique, MI) -- Do you provide outfitter or guide services on the Hiawatha, Huron-Manistee or Ottawa National Forests in Michigan?  Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor Cid Morgan reminds outfitters and guides about the permit requirements for commercial operations conducting business on National Forest lands.

Outfitters and guides on a National Forest provide their clients with the opportunity to experience a particular activity.  Outfitters and guides provide equipment, services and technical instruction, and they support a land ethic that assists the Forest Service in achieving its mission.  Typical activities in the Michigan National Forests include hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, mushing, snowmobiling, skiing, shuttle services, and camping.  

“While some commercial operations conducted on National Forests are already properly permitted,” says Morgan, “we’re bringing it up as a reminder and also in hopes of avoiding any future violations.”

Who needs a permit? According to Morgan, any individual, business, or organization providing commercial outfitting and/or guiding services on National Forest Lands -- whether or not the primary aim is to produce a profit -- needs a permit. She explains that this oversight benefits the resource, the taxpayer and the outfitter.

“Forest Service staff will provide outfitters and guides information about the written proposal process,” says Morgan. “Your proposal must include an explanation of the proposed operation such as objectives, specific area, season of use, typical clients, modes of transportation, amount of expected use, experience, financial capability, equipment, and training.”

The Forest Service will evaluate each proposal to determine if the proposed activity is in the public interest, if there is public demand, whether or not the service is already being provided in the proposed area, and if it is consistent with laws and regulations and the given Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan). Based on that initial evaluation, a decision will be made about whether to move forward with the permit process.

The Forest Service permits may be initially issued for one year or less and may be renewed for additional years subject to acceptable performance. After two years of acceptable performance, permit holders may request a priority use permit for up to ten years.  It’s also important to realize that permit holders are required to carry liability insurance and to submit an operating plan. A land use fee is also required.

“Special use permits enable the Forest Service to protect resources, ensure that permitted uses don’t conflict with other uses, reduce public liability risks, and ensure that taxpayers receive fair market value from commercial users of public lands,” explained Morgan. “We encourage outfitters and guides to contact the Forests as soon as possible so that the permit process can be completed in advance of the operating season.”

For more information about obtaining a special use permit for your business, please contact the Hiawatha National Forest (906) 428-5800; Huron-Manistee National Forest (231) 821-6263; or Ottawa National Forest (906) 932-1330.

About the U.S. Forest Service
National Forest System lands provide 20 percent of America’s drinking water.  The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of land and is the largest forestry research organization in the world. The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. For more information, visit

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (toll-free customer service), (800) 877-8339 (TDD), or (800) 845-6136 (TDD in Spanish).