Special Use Permits

Special Use Authorizations

A special-use authorization is a legal document such as a permit, term permit, lease, or easement, which allows occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of NFS land. The authorization is granted for a specific use of the land for a specific period of time.

You will need an authorization:

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

As set forth in law, the mission of the Forest Service is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple–use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people. "Special Uses" provides services supporting our national policy and federal land laws by authorizing uses on National Forest System (NFS) land. Special uses may involve everything from outfitting & guide activities, ski resorts, lodging, and marinas to energy transmission and development, commercial filming, and much more.

Each year, the Forest Service receives thousands of individual and business applications for authorization for use of National Forest System (NFS) land and carefully reviews each application to determine how the request affects the public's use of NFS land.

Normally, NFS land is not made available if the overall needs of the individual or business can be met on nonfederal lands.

Commercial Filming and Photography on National Forests in California

Commercial filming and photography may take place on Forest Service public lands (National Forests). Like other commercial uses of National Forest System lands or resources, commercial filming and photography requires a Special Use Permit, which is issued by the District Ranger or Forest Supervisor [Authorized Officer] of the relevant forest.

Event/Commercial Permits

Some group activities and some recreation events may require a Special Use Permit. A Special Use Permit grants rights or privileges of occupancy and use to the holder. Examples include reserving a public site for a wedding party, or holding a bicycle race on public lands. These permits contain specific terms and conditions that the holder must follow.

Recreation Residence, Communication, Road Use and Other Permits

Find out more about special use permits for recreation residences, communication infrastructure, commercial road use.


  • National FS Special Uses
  • 36 CFR 251.50—Scope

    This final rule clarifies requirements regarding the issuance of special use authorizations for activities involving National Forest System roads and trails. 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 website.

  • 36 CFR 251.58—Cost Recovery

    According to CFR 251.58, the Forest Service is authorized to assess fees to recover agency processing and monitoring costs for special use authorizations. Cost recovery fees are adjusted on an annual basis and are separate from any fees charged for the use and occupancy of National Forest System Lands.