Definition: “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, location and duration”.
The Forest Service manages over 192 million acres of national forests and grasslands that comprise the National Forest System (NFS). Today, our growing population and mobile society have created a demand for a variety of uses of these federal lands. Often these diverse needs require specific approval. The Forest Service provides services that support our national policy and federal land laws. The Agency's special-uses program authorizes uses on NFS land that provide a benefit to the general public and protect public and natural resources values. Currently there are over 74,000 authorizations on the NFS lands for over 180 types of uses.
Each year, the Forest Service receives thousands of individual and business applications for authorization for use of NFS land for such activities as water transmission, agriculture, outfitting and guiding, recreation, telecommunication, research, photography and video productions, and granting road and utility rights-of-ways. The Forest Service 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.
Before Special Use Permits are issued, the Forest Service must determine that the proposed use complies with all management plans and laws, that there is a demonstrated need for the activity, and that the use is appropriate on national forest system lands. Special Use Permits are a temporary authority.
Below are the steps to walk you through the application process. Please read through each step before proceeding.
Special Use Process: Proposal, Screening, Application, Review, Processing, Administration
Step 1 – Submitting a Proposal
Step 2 – Screening Proposal for Consistency with Forest Plan
Step 3 – Filling out the Application
Step 4 – Review by the Permit Administrator
Step 5 – Insurance Requirements
Step 6 – Determining Fees
Step 7 – Administration: Processing, Monitoring, and Inspections
Common Use Categories
Choose the use type below to be directed to an application and other information related specifically to the activity:
Outfitting and Guiding
- Outfitting: Renting on or delivering to National Forest System Lands for pecuniary remuneration or other gain any saddle or pack animal, vehicle, boat, camping gear, or similar supplies or equipment.
- Guiding: Providing services or assistance (such as supervision, protection, education, training, packing, touring, subsistence, transporting people, or interpretation) for pecuniary remuneration or other gain to individuals or groups on National Forest System lands.
- Outfitting and Guiding Companies
- Hunting Outfitting and Guiding Companies
Recreation Events – A recreational activity conducted on National Forest System Lands for which an entry or participation fee is charged, such as animal, vehicle, or boat races, dog trials, fishing contests, rodeos, adventure games, and fairs.
Non-Commercial Group Use – Any use or activity that does not involve commercial use and has 75 or more people participating and/or spectating.
Filming and Photography
- Filming: Use of motion picture, videotaping, sound recording, or other moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System Lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of models, actors, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news.
- Photography: Use of still photography on equipment on National Forest System Lands that takes place at a location where members of the public generally are not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely, or uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.
Research Activities – Experimental forest demonstration areas, locations for naval stores, observatories, laboratories, stream gages, weather stations, cloud seeding devices, and similar uses not intended to result in further development.
Other Commercial Activities – Any other commercial activity conducted on National Forest System Lands for the purpose of advertising, product testing, etc.
Fishing Tournament – A recreational activity conducted on National Forest System Lands and Waters for which an entry or participation fee is charged and /or prizes are awarded to individuals or teams based on the sport of fishing.
Training – Local, State and Federal Government Agencies, and Federal and State military training activities and sites. Private organizations or individuals shall not use National Forest System Lands for military or paramilitary exercises.
Tribal Traditional and Cultural Ceremonies - Tribal members have access to sacred sites for individual and group prayer and traditional ceremonies and rituals. Tribal members may request area closures during these activities to provide for privacy of tribal activities for traditional and cultural purposes.
Other – If your type of activity is not listed (for example, a cellular tower, a recreation residence, power lines), please inquire at your according Ranger District Office or the Supervisor’s Office.