Event/Commercial Permits

The Forest Service manages the national forests for a number of multiple uses, including recreation, timber, wilderness, minerals, water, grazing, fish and wildlife. Our job is to help people share and enjoy the forest, while conserving the environment for generations yet to come. To help us meet this goal, certain activities, such as firewood collection, require permits, while others, such as camping, benefit from passes.

Read on for an overview of national forest passes and permits:

Special Uses Permits

DEADLINES by Season of Special Use

FALL/WINTER USES (Occurring between August 15 and February 15) – Application deadline of November 15 of the prior year of season.
Example: event is 9/5/2022, application needs to be turned in by 11/15/2021.

SPRING/SUMMER USES (Occurring between February 16 and August 14)  – Application deadline of May 15 of the prior year of season.
Example: event is 4/15/2022, application needs to be turned in by 5/15/2021.

The above deadlines apply to all permits except pipelines, electric distribution & transmission lines and communication lines. If the deadline falls on a weekend or federal holiday, then applications are due by 5 p.m. eastern the previous business day.

About Special Use Permits

Special use authorizations provide use of National Forest System lands for a wide variety of activities. Authorizations are issued to commercial and non-commercial operations which provide use of and access to these lands. Permits are also issued for private, non-exclusive use. Depending on the complexity of the proposal, obtaining a special use authorization can sometimes be a lengthy process. In order to facilitate this process, coordinate early with the District where you would like to operate.

Not all proponents receive a permit, therefore any action taken before receiving a special use authorization, such as advertising or expending funds, is premature and at the proponent's risk.

Before a special use proposal is approved, the agency must determine that the proposed use complies with the Forest's land and resource management plan; that National Environmental Policy Act requirements are met; there is a demonstrated need for the activity on National Forest System lands; and the use is appropriate on National Forest System lands.

Special use activities can be divided into Non-commercial and Commercial uses as follows:

A non-commercial group use is a use or activity that involves a group of 75 or more people, either as participants or spectators, where an entry or participation fee is not charged, and the primary purpose is not the sale of a goods or service. Some examples of noncommercial group uses are weddings, church services, endurance rides, regattas, camping trips, hikes, music festivals, rallies, graduations, and races.

Commercial Uses
A use is considered Commercial when:

There are some areas on the Forest where special policies apply.

Specific information for several types of uses (Recreation Events, Commercial Photography and Filming, Outfitters and Guides, Transportation, and Energy Permits) is provided below.

Commercial Recreation Events 

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; dog trials; fishing contests; rendezvous; rodeos; adventure games; youth treks; concerts; and other similar events.

A permit is required for these types of events, regardless of the number of people involved in the activity.

Commercial Photography and Filming 

The Forest Service permits commercial filming and still photography on public lands. Commercial filming: The use of any motion picture, videotaping, sound-recording, or any other type of moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System (NFS) lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of actors, models, sets or props. However, this does not include broadcasting breaking news. Commercial still photography: The use of photographic equipment to capture still images on film, digital format, and other similar technologies on NFS lands that:

  • Takes place at a location where members of the public are generally 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.

When is a Commercial Photography or Filming permit required?

  • A permit is required for all commercial filming activities on National Forest System lands except those involving breaking news.
  • A permit is required for all still photography activities on National Forest System lands that involve the use of models, sets or props that are not a part of the natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities of the site where the activity is occurring.
  • A permit may be required for still photography activities not involving models, sets, or props when the Forest Service incurs additional administrative costs as a direct result of the activity or when the activity takes place at a location where members of the public are generally not allowed.
  • Application Form: Standard Form-299 Permit Application

Outfitters and Guides

Outfitting and Guiding is all commercial outfitting operations involving services for accommodating guests, transporting persons, and providing equipment, supplies, and materials. It also includes commercial guiding activities wherein the guide furnishes personal services or serves as a leader or teacher.

When is an Outfitting and Guiding permit required?

  • A permit is required when the outfitting/guiding operation is conducted on National Forest System (NFS) lands or waters. Outfitting and guiding services range from hunting, fishing, canoeing trips to dogsledding, snowmobiling, and hiking tours, to name a few. Outfitters based off NFS lands that rent and deliver equipment to the public on NFS lands must obtain a permit if they, their employees, or agents occupy or use NFS lands or waters in connection with their rental programs.
  • Application Form: Special Use Application & Temporary Permit for Outfitting and Guiding
  • Application Addendum: Addendum
  • National brochure: Link

Transportation Permits

For use of roads not open to the general public for motorized use or use of roads/driveways across NFS land to access private property.

Energy Permits 

For uses related to energy, wind, pipeline, transmission lines, rights-of-way, electrical easements, utility lines, wells or holding tanks, etc