Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need an authorization?

  1. If you will propose to occupy, use or build on or over NFS land for personal or business purposes, whether the duration is temporary or long term;
  2. If a fee is being charged or if income is derived from the use;
  3. If the activity on NFS lands involves 75 or more participants or spectators.

For more detailed information about whether your activity or use may require a special use authorization, contact your local Forest Service office.

Complete regulations on special use permits and recreation events on national forests are published at 36 CFR 251. You may obtain copies from your local Forest Service office, law library, or by visiting the National Archives & Records Administration's Code of Federal Regulations home page at Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Main Page.

 How to apply for a special use permit:

Application information is available at the Forest Service Special Uses Site

Prior to submitting a proposal for use of NFS land, you are encouraged to arrange a meeting at the local Forest Service office where the use is being requested.  This provides you an opportunity to discuss your proposal, the application procedures and qualifications, time frames, fees, bonding requirements, possible land use conflicts, environmental studies, or needed coordination with other agencies.

If your proposal includes a commercial use of NFS lands (when use of NFS lands is for business or financial gain), you may be required to submit a business plan, an operation plan, liability insurance, licenses, and/or registrations or other documents. 

Depending on the complexity of a proposal, obtaining a special use authorization can sometimes be a lengthy process.

The Forest Service is authorized to assess cost recovery fees to recover agency processing and monitoring costs for special use authorizations according to 36 CFR 251.58[WJ9] .  The fees are assessed prior to evaluating special use applications for most recreation and land uses.  Cost recovery fees are separate from fees charged for the use and occupancy of NFS lands. 

Below are examples of specific uses of NFS lands that require special use authorizations:


Examples of special uses that support community and public information interests:

  • Group events (non-recreational purposes such as parades and demonstrations)
  • Native American Traditional Religious Activity
  • Religious meetings
  • Public information & Signs (we try to avoid commercial advertising signs)
  • Markers & Monuments (historical markers, roadside markers, summit markers, etc)
  • Commercial Filming

 Examples of special uses that support recreation interests:

 Examples of special uses that support research interests:

  • Site surveys and testing
  • Research and research study
  • Experimental and demonstration

 Examples of special uses that support industry interests:

  • Manufacturing
  • Timber processing
  • Mineral exploration
  • Filming for motion pictures or commercials

 Other kinds of special uses include:

  • Energy Generation and Transmission
  • Transportation
  • Communications
  • Water (non-power generating)

 I am going to sell my improvements that are located on NFS land, what should I do?

When you are considering selling your improvements, contact your local Forest Service office to notify them of your intentions.   Request a FS-2700-3a [WJ10]  form called "Holder Initiated Revocation of Existing Authorization."  As the seller, complete Part I of the form that says you convey your interest in the improvements or are entering into a contract for the sale.  After you have completed Part I, give the form to the buyer(s) that requests a new permit for the continued use of those improvements.  You should inform them that:

  1. Your current authorization is not transferable;
  2. They must apply for and obtain a new authorization;
  3. There are terms and conditions for the use of NFS lands; and
  4. They must contact the Forest Service prior to the acquisition of your improvements.

I am going to purchase improvements that are located on NFS land, what should I do?

Prior to your purchase of any improvements that are located on NFS land, request that the seller provide you a copy of the authorization for the improvements.  That gives you an opportunity to review the terms and conditions of the authorization under which they are operating.  It is advisable to contact the Forest Service Permit Administrator that oversees the authorization and explain your interest in purchasing.  The Permit Administrator will explain the process for issuing you a new permit for the improvements.

Upon purchase of the improvements, the seller should provide you a FS-2700-3a[WJ11] form called "Holder Initiated Revocation of Existing Authorization Request for a Special-Use Permit or Term Special-Use Permit," with Part I completed.  You will complete Part II, Request for a Special-Use Permit and submit to the Forest Service Permit Administrator.  A Bill of Sale, Deed or other documentation that verifies your purchase of the improvements will need to be attached.  In some cases, the Permit Administrator may request additional information in order to process the Request.