Event/Commercial Permits

Forest Service Special-Use Program

The Forest Service authorizes uses on national forest land that provide a benefit to the public while protecting public and natural resources values.  Currently, there are over 74,000 authorizations for over 180 types of uses.

Each year, the Forest Service receives thousands of applications for use of National Forest System Land for activities such as water transmission, agriculture, outfitting and guiding, recreation, telecommunications, research, commercial photography, video-productions, and road and utility rights-of-ways.  The Forest Service reviews each application. The review process is lengthy, so do not wait until the last minute to apply.

What are Special-Use Authorizations/Permits

A special-use authorization is a legal document (i.e. permit, term permit, lease, or easement) which allows occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of National Forest System (NFS) Land.  The authorization is grated for a specific use, for a specific time.

When Do I Need a Permit?

You will need a permit if:

  • If you will occupy, use, or build on Forest Service land for personal or business purposes, whether the duration is temporary or long term.
  • If a fee is charged or if income is derived from the use.
  • If an activity on NFS land involves individuals or organization with 75 or more participants or spectators. (i.e. events, gatherings, parties, or wedding)

We are commonly asked still or video photography permits. National Forest visitors and professional or amateur photographers do NOT need a permit unless the photography will:

  • Use models, sets or props that are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resource or administrative facilities.
  • Take place where members of the public are not generally allowed. (An example would be an area closed to the public to protect wildlife.)
  • Take place at a location where additional administrative costs are likely. (Ex. Sites so popular with photographers the Forest Service is required to regulate use.)

How Do I Apply?

  1. Contact the Forest Service office closest to the area you wish to use to request an application.

  2. Prior to submitting the proposal, arrange a pre-application meeting at the local Forest Service Office to discuss your proposal. The Forest Service will screen and review your request to see if your proposal is

    • Consistent with existing laws, regulations, and forest plans
    • Safe
    • Conflicts with other administrative uses
    • In the public interest
    • Compatible with other current land resource uses
    • If you are qualified, able to demonstrate technical and financial feasibility and a designated legal agent?
  3. Complete and submit the application form, including supporting documents, to the local Forest Service office. An incomplete proposal will delay the processing.

    Tips for Completing the Application

    • Name and Address – Including the full name(s) to be used. If the application includes real property, the name(s) on the legal document must match the application.
    • Applicant’s Agent – This person must be at least 21 years old and may or may not be the same as the applicant. Documentation should be included to verify that this person may sign on behalf of the applicant.
    • Project Description – Include enough detail to enable the Forest Service to determine feasibility, environmental impacts, benefits to the public, the safety of the request, lands to be occupied or used, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
    • Environmental Protection Plan – Include proposed plans for environmental protection and rehabilitation during construction, maintenance, removal, and reclamation of land.
    • Map – Provide a details map (U.S. Geological Survey quadrange or equivalent) or plat (survey or equivalent) showing the requested use in relation to NFS land, identification or applicant’s property (if applicable), scale, map, legend, legal description, and a north arrow.
    • Technical and Financial Capability – Provide documentation demonstrating you can construct, operate, maintain, and remove the use off NFS land, and reclaim the land after the authorization terminates. (Reclaim means restore to its original state as best as possible.)
    • Alternatives – You must first consider using nonfederal land. Lower costs or fewer restrictions are not adequate reasons for use of NFS lands. Provide alternative locations for the proposal in your application.
  4. A Forest Service staff member will review your application. Most uses require additional information with the application. You may need business plans, operating plans, liability insurance, licenses/registrations, or other documents. Failure to submit all required materials in a timely manner is grounds for denial.

    Plan ahead! 

    Once the complete application is accepted by the authorized officer, the Forest Service Permit Administrator’s time and resources can be obligated towards the preparation and administration of the proposed activity and you may need to cover these costs.

  5. A Special-use Permit requires that the permit holder indemnify the United States against any liability arising from the use or occupancy of NFS lands. The permit requires the holder to have their insurance company name the United States Government as an additionally insured party. The minimum required liability coverage (in general) shall be as follows: 1) General liability, each occurrence - $300,000; 2) Property damage (each occurrence) - $25,000; 3) Death or injury (to one person) - $100,000; and 4) Death and injury (to more than one person) - $300,000. These values may vary based on type of activity. A copy of a Certificate of Insurance and a letter of endorsement (ISO form # CG-20-12-07-98 or equivalent) will be required prior to the issuance of the permit. No hand-written certificates or endorsements will be accepted.  The holder’s name MUST appear on the certificate of insurance as the “insured”.

  6. Fees are sometimes applied to special-use authorizations.  Fees help offset agency time and resources that are necessary to administer special-use permits and related enforcement activities.  The fee amount depends on the scale and potential resource impacts of the proposed activity and will be detailed in your permit.

    Some fees may include:

    • Cost Recovery Fees – An assessment of fees to recover agency processing costs for special-use applications and monitoring costs for special-use authorizations.  These fees are separate from any fees charged for the use and occupancy of NFS lands.
    • Land Use Fees – This is an annual rental fee based on the fair market value for the uses authorized and is payable in advance.  Fees are established by appraisal or other sound business management principles.
    • Other Associated Costs – You may be responsible for providing information and reports necessary to determine the feasibility and environmental impacts of your proposal; compliance with applicable laws and regulations; and terms and conditions to be included in the authorization.
  7. Once the permit, operating plan, and required documents have been signed by both the permit holder and authorized Forest Officer, the documentation portion of the authorization is complete. Only then will you be authorized to proceed with your activity. The Forest Service may conduct an inspection to ensure the activities or events are going well and regulations are being followed based on the terms and conditions of the permit issued.