Special Use Permits - Non-Commercial Group Events
Most visitors enjoy "non-commercial" activities on their National Forests such as berry picking, camping, picnicking, fishing, participating in assemblies, meetings, rallies, birthday and wedding parties. In general, special use permits are not required for these types of non-commercial recreational uses. However in some circumstances non-commercial group activities will also need a recreation special use permit. There are no fees.
Applications must be submitted at least 72 hours prior to the visitation, however we would appreciate a two week lead.
Is my event Commercial or Non-Commercial?
Prior to issuance of a special use permit, it must be determined if the activity is commercial or non-commercial.
- If commercial, a Recreation Event permit is required (see Recreation Event Section). This includes activities that a have entry fees or "donations" that are mandatory for participation.
- If noncommercial, involving more than 75 people (participants and spectators) a Noncommercial Group Use Permit is required. Fees, insurance and bonding are exempted by regulation.
- If noncommercial, involving less than 75 people (participants and spectators) a permit is not mandatory, but could be desirable to manage the event and associated public conflicts. Fees, insurance and bonding are exempted by regulation.
In order to be considered a non-commercial use, there must be:
- No entry or participant fee,
- Fees for direct costs (food, transportation, etc) may be collected based on a bona fide sharing of expenses.
- Donations are not considered fees if they do not exceed direct costs.
- Funds collected in excess of direct costs are returned to participants based on a bona fide sharing of costs.
- Under most circumstances guides and leaders are not paid or compensated.
- No sale of goods or services on National Forest lands, and
- No money is charged for a "good or service" beyond a bona fide sharing of direct costs.
Examples of groups not needing a special use permit:
- Wedding party of 30 people with no fee.
- Family summer camp-out of 50 folks; costs are collected to cover the food.
- Weekend Equestrian Club trip with 10 riders; costs are pooled to cover the actual food and gas costs.
Examples of groups needing a Non-Commercial Group Use Special Use Permit:
- Grandpa's 85th Birthday party of 85 people at a developed campground with no fee or costs.
- Church camp-out of 60 folks; costs are collected to cover the food, transportation and the camp cook is paid for the weekend.
A noncommercial group use is any activity on National Forest System lands "That involves 75 or more people, either as participants or spectator, where an entry or participation fee is not charged; and where the primary purpose is not the sale of a good or service" (36 CFR 251.51).
Application Review Process
The following eight criteria must be met for non-commercial group use requests:
1. Authorization of the proposed activity is not prohibited by 36 CFR part 261, Subpart A; by an order issued under 36 CFR part 261, Subpart B; or by Federal, State, or local law unrelated to the content of expressive activity.
2. Authorization of the proposed activity is consistent or can be made consistent with standards and guidelines in the applicable Forest land and resource management plan required under the National Forest Management Act and 36 CFR part 219.
3. The proposed activity does not materially impact the characteristics or functions of the environmentally sensitive resources or lands.
4. The proposed activity will not delay, halt, or prevent administrative use of an area by the Forest Service or other scheduled or existing uses or activities on National Forest System lands.
5. The proposed activity does not violate state and local public health laws and regulations as applied to the proposed site. Issues addressed by state and local public health laws and regulations as applied to the proposed site include:
- The sufficiency of sanitation facilities;
- The sufficiency of waste disposal facilities;
- The availability of sufficient potable drinking water;
- The risk of disease from the physical characteristics of the proposed site or natural conditions associated with the proposed site; and
- The risk of contamination of the water supply.
6. The proposed activity will not pose a substantial danger to public safety. Considerations of public safety must not include concerns about possible reaction to the users' identity or beliefs from nonmembers of the group applying for a permit and must be limited to:
- The potential for physical injury to other forest users from the proposed activity;
- The potential for physical injury to users from the physical characteristics of the proposed site or natural conditions associated with the proposed site;
- The potential for physical injury to users from scheduled or existing uses or activities on National Forest System lands; and
- The adequacy of ingress and egress in case of an emergency.
7. The proposed activity does not involve military or paramilitary training or exercises by private organizations or individuals, unless such training or exercises are federally funded.
8. A person or persons 21 years of age or older have been designated to sign and do sign a permit on behalf of the applicant.