Event/Commercial Permits

Special Uses encompasses all uses of the National Forest except uses authorized for grazing, sale or collection of forest products, and minerals. Special uses fall in two categories: recreation and non-recreation.

The Modoc National Forest administers some 150 active special use authorizations annually. Recreation permits make up around 15% of permits issued and/or administered on the forest in a year. These include recreation residences, a youth camp, ski hill, hunting and fishing guides, and several large group use events.

A wide path is cut by heavy equipment under power lines to create a road Non-recreation permits make up the remaining 85% and include uses like microwave and cell communications facilities, power lines, field research projects, fiber optic lines, weather stations and many others.  Nationwide there are over 75,000 separate permits for over 180 types of uses.

Who Needs a Permit and Why?

Permits are required for recreational activities that meet any the following general criteria:

  • anticipated attendance of 75 or more individuals;
  • is commercial in nature, i.e. fees are charged or items are sold;
  • organized competitive event with entry fees, prizes.

Permits from the Forest Service are not required for noncommercial recreational activities such as camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and horseback riding unless they involve groups of 75 or more people. State permits may be required for these uses. 

Why are Permits Required?

Large groups have the potential to impact resources. The Forest is responsible for the care of its resources and works with groups in order to minimize impacts to the area proposed for use. In some cases, the forest or district may direct groups to a more suitable area that meets the group needs and poses no or reduced potential to damage sensitive resources.

Two men help the operator of a hang glider prep for take-off on the hill side.Activities that are commercial in nature are required to obtain a permit for the same reason. In addition, events that profit from the use of National Forest lands are essentially renting the land for that purpose and fees are required.

If there is a question as to whether a permit is required, contact the Ranger District office from which the land desired for use is administered. Permits for recreational use in most cases are easily available; however, in planning your gathering or event you are asked to contact the district office 90 days in advance or as soon as your plans identify the National Forest area you want to use. Initial requests for land use may be submitted in writing to the district or forest office by letter or email. This allows you to work with the recreation specialists to develop a gathering or event that best meets your needs and protects forest resources. Formal application forms are available at all Modoc National Forest offices.

Non-recreation uses include roads, communications sites, energy transmission, water transmission, research, or any other activity that requires use of land or placement of equipment or facilities on the National Forest. Most uses require fees beginning at the current $30 minimum. The permit holder is generally the sole beneficiary of the permit, i.e. makes a profit or secures a benefit from the land use, and as such pays a land use rent for its facilities.

Environmental Analysis

All permits require some level of environmental analysis dependent on the activity and potential for resource impact by the activity. For this reason, both recreation and non-recreation permit applicants are asked to allow a minimum of 90 days from the date of application to the date of anticipated use. Responses to applications will be made within 5 working days of receipt. The exception is for non-commercial group uses who will receive their response within 48 hours of receipt of the application.

Cost recovery is the method by which the Forest may recoup some or all costs associated with the processing of a special use application. Applicants are notified of any cost recovery required as soon as their application is accepted. Noncommercial group uses are exempt from cost recovery as are a number of other uses.

Complete information about Special Use Permits on any National Forest can be found at www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/. Text of Forest Service special use regulations are available in the Code of Federal Regulations through the Government Printing Office at www.gpo.gov under 36 CFR 251 and following.