Application Procedure for Recreation Event Permits

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Beginning in 2014 the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNFs) are requiring requests for recreation special use permits to be submitted within one of two “open seasons.” A special use authorization is required before conducting any type of commercial recreation use of National Forest System (NFS) lands. The forest has adopted an open season application period to respond to the growing number of requests for recreation events requiring a special use permit.

There are two open seasons each year:


  • Summer Season Events (events occurring June 1 through November 30)
    • Application period: January 1- January 31
  • Winter Season Events (events occurring December 1 through May 31)
    • Application period: August 1 - August 31

All requests will be reviewed to ensure consistency with applicable laws, policies and guidelines for use of National Forest System (NFS) lands. To facilitate timely review and processing of applications, detailed information must be provided to Forest Service personnel well in advance of the scheduled event. Submission deadlines are intended to streamline the process and better meet customer needs.

What is a commercial use or activity?

A commercial use or activity on NFS land occurs when

  •  An applicant intends to charge an entry or participation fee, or
  • The primary purpose is the sale of a good or service, regardless of the intent to produce a profit. Money collected may cover expense categories, such as food, transportation, prizes, advertising, purchase replacement of equipment, or compensation for the leader of the activity.

What are commercial recreation events and who needs a permit?

Recreation events are commercial activities requiring temporary, authorized use of NFS land. Examples of recreation events include, but are not limited to, animal, bicycle, motocross, or triathlon races; jeep rallies; dog trials; fishing contests; rendezvous; rodeos; adventure games; youth treks; wagon trains; concerts; and other similar events. A permit is required for these types of events, regardless of the number of people involved in the activity.

Use is considered noncommercial if the fees charged are used only for the purpose of paying for actual expenses directly related to operating or staging the activity, with any excess funds returned to participants. The fees charged should not include costs for employees or personnel who stage or run the event. Open season deadlines do not apply to non-commercial group use, filming, or outfitter/guide permit requests; however, noncommercial events involving 75 or more people still require a waived fee or non-fee permit and need to be coordinated with your local Forest Service office.

How do I apply for a recreation event special use permit?

1. Contact your local Forest Service office and request an application or click here. Using the online form, provide as much detail as possible about the event you are proposing such as:

  • name of the organization or individual requesting the permit and contact information
  • name of person signing a special use authorization on behalf of the event
  • description of proposed activity
  • location and description of National Forest System lands, roads and/or trails, and facilities requested for use
  • starting and ending date and time of the proposed event
  • the duration of the event (including set up/break down)
  • the expected number of participants and spectators
  • fees charged
  • facilities provided (i.e. tents, canopies, stage, booths, seating, showers)
  • provisions for signing, safety, sanitation, parking, food, beverages, sale of products, site cleanup, resource protection, and insurance coverage
  • provide a map of the event location/route (required)

2. Prior to submitting the proposal, you are required to arrange a pre-application meeting during the applicable open season at the local Forest Service office where the use is being requested. A staff member will discuss your proposal, potential land use conflicts, application procedures and qualifications, probable time frames, fees, bonding requirements, additional coordination with other agencies, environmental reports, and field reviews.

3. Most commercial uses require additional information with the application. You may need business plans, operating plans, liability insurance, licenses/registrations, or other documents. A commercial use is when an applicant intends to make use of NFS lands for business or financial gain. An incomplete proposal could delay the processing.

4. The application form, including supporting documents, needs to be completed and submitted during the open season to the ‘Recreation Event Permit Administrator’ at your local Forest Service office:

For events at Sandpoint, Priest Lake and Bonners Ferry Ranger District:

Priest Lake Ranger District
32203 Highway 57
Priest River, ID 83856

For events at the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District:

Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District
2502 E. Sherman Ave.
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814

Events at the St. Joe Ranger District:

St. Joe Ranger District
222 S. 7th, Suite 1
St. Maries, ID 83861


Land use rental fees are 5% of adjusted gross receipts for one-time events and 3% of adjusted gross receipts for multiple events under one permit. Adjusted gross receipts are the gross revenue less the cost to the holder of the prizes awarded. Only those prizes which are paid for by the holder or come from the entry fee costs can be deducted. Donated prizes can not be deducted.