Event/Commercial Permits

Event, Commercial and Special Use Permits

A permit is required for any commercial activity defined as:

  • any use or activity on National Forest System lands where;
  • an entry or participation fee is charged
  • the primary purpose is the sale of a good or service

Regardless of whether the use or activity is intended to produce a profit, special use permits are issued at the local Ranger District office.  Basic requirements for holding a permit include technical and financial capability, payment of a fee, and insurance listing the US Government as additionally insured.


The Northern Rockies region receives hundreds of requests for special use authorizations annually.  Examples and types of activities that require a recreation event special use permit include, but are not limited to:

  • competitive races,
  • contests, fund raisers,
  • eco-challenges,
  • club activities,
  • adventure games
  • endurance races.

If you or your organization are considering holding such an event on the National Forest, you must contact your local Ranger District well in advance of the scheduled event to determine whether a permit is available.


Commercial Filming or Commercial Photography Permit:

Commercial filming and commercial photography may take place on National Forest System (NFS) lands, however like other commercial uses of NFS lands and resources the use of the land for commercial filming and still commercial photography requires a special use permit, which is issued by the District Ranger or Forest Supervisor of the relevant Forest.  General media outlets are not included as commercial filming or commercial photography.

Prior to the issuance of a permit, the Forest Service will determine if there are any environmental concerns in the proposed filming or photo shoot location.

  • The Custer Gallatin National Forest requires submission of commercial filming proposals at least 2 weeks in advance of requested filming dates and requests 30 days advance submission, especially in cases of more complex proposals or proposals that are not fully formulated.
  • Depending upon permit requests and work loads, film permiting can take up to 1-2 months.


In order to expedite a filming request, please be aware of the following considerations:

Request template - Standard template, additional information may be requested on a case-by-case basis.

  • Commercial filming is defined as use of motion picture, videotaping, sound-recording, or any other type of 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, and/or the use of actors, models, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news. For purposes of this definition, creation of a product for sale includes a film, videotape, television broadcast, or documentary of historic events, wildlife, natural events, features, subjects or participants in a sporting or recreation event, and so forth, when created for the purpose of generating income (FSH 2709.11 2008-2 (CH 40)).
  • Commercial photography is defined as the use of photographic equipment to capture still images on film, digital format, and other similar technologies found on National Forest System 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 part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities (FSH 2709.11 2008-2 (CH 40)).
  • The Forest Service may require liability insurance and/or performance bonds to protect the public interest (FSH 2709.11 2008-2 (CH 40)). Typically, one (1) million dollars in general liability may required. Up to five (5) million may be required for activities that involve the use of a helicopter.
  • Public law 106-206 allows the Forest Service to collect two types of fees for commercial filming or commercial photography activities – a use fee and a “cost recovery” fee.
    • The use fee is based upon: the number of days filming or photography activities take place; the size of the film/photography crew; and/or the amount and type of equipment present.
    • The cost recovery fee covers the administrative and personnel costs associated with issuing the permit.
  • Wilderness areas are congressionally-designated areas on federal lands that are subject to specific management restrictions; human activities are restricted to non-motorized recreation (such as backpacking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, etc.), scientific research, and other non-invasive activities. Wilderness Areas occur on Forest Service (Department of Agriculture) lands, as well as on lands managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of Interior).  A special use permit may only be issued for commercial photography or commercial filming on a US Forest Service Wilderness Area if the activity has a primary objective of disseminating information about the use and enjoyment of wilderness, is wilderness-dependent and an appropriate non-wilderness substitute does not exist, and the activity would not involve the use of any motorized equipment or mechanical transport (see Key Messages of FSH 2701.11-2010-2 (CH 40)for further information).