Event/Commercial Permits

A special-use authorization is a legal document such as a permit, term permit, lease, or easement, which allows occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of NFS land. The authorization is granted for a specific use of the land for a specific period of time.

When do I need an authorization?

  1. If you will need to occupy, use, or build on NFS land for personal or business purposes, whether the duration is temporary or long term.
  2. If there is a fee being charged or if income is derived from the use.
  3. If an activity on NFS land involves individuals or organization with 75 or more participants or spectators.

What are 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 type of events, regardless of the number of people involved in the activity.

How do I apply?

To begin the process, you are required to contact the Forest Service District office in the area where you wish to have your activity before you have worked out the details. This contact will determine whether your activity meets the following pre-application screening requirements applicable to all special uses:

  1. The proposed use is consistent with federal, state, and local laws, regulations, orders, and policies that apply to national forests and grasslands;
  2. The proposed use is consistent or can be made consistent with the Forest Plan that established standards and guidelines for management of the land where the activity will take place;
  3. The proposed use will not create a serious and substantial risk to public health or safety;
  4. The proposed use will not create an exclusive or perpetual right of use or occupancy;
  5. The proposed use will not unreasonably conflict or interfere with administrative use by the Forest Service, other authorized existing uses, or uses of adjacent non-NFS lands;
  6. The proponent must not owe any fees to the Forest Service from a prior or existing special-use authorization;
  7. The proposed use does not involve gambling or providing of sexually-oriented commercial services, even if permitted under state law;
  8. The proposed use does not involve military or paramilitary training or exercises, unless such training is federally funded;
  9. The proposed use does not involve disposal of solid waste or disposal of radioactive or other hazardous substances.

If you meet the initial screening requirements, the Forest Service administrator will provide guidance on what information will be required to complete your application. If your proposed event does not meet the screening requirements you will be notified that the proposal, as submitted, is denied.

A proposal that passes the initial screening proceeds to second level screening. Your proposal will be accepted as an application if it meets all of the following:

  1. The proposed use would be consistent or compatible with the purposes for which the lands are managed; and
  2. The proposed use would be in the public interest; and
  3. The proponent is qualified; and
  4. The proponent can demonstrate technical or financial capability to undertake the use and fully comply with the terms and conditions of the permit; and
  5. There is someone authorized by the proponent to sign a permit or there is someone willing to accept the responsibility of the terms and conditions of the permit. Upon satisfactory passing of this screen the Forest Service will process your request.

Is a fee required?

Yes, land use rental fees are required and there are two ways to determine the fees:

  1. Five percent of adjusted gross receipts for one-time events and 3 percent of adjusted gross receipts for multiple events under a single permit; or
  2. Using the minimum fees for recreation events that have been established, but may vary, by National Forest.

There may be other costs for which you are responsible as part of your authorized activity. Liability insurance coverage and a performance bond to ensure protection of the environment and site cleanup may be required. Depending on the size and duration of your activity, costs associated with law enforcement, crowd control, safety issues, and sanitation may also be required.

What is a Noncommercial Group Use?

A noncommercial group use is an activity that involves a group of 75 or more people, either as participants or spectators. Noncommercial is any use or activity 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.

Why are permits required for noncommercial group uses?

As a steward of the National Forests, the Forest Service has a duty to minimize resource impacts on National Forest System lands. Large group gatherings in the National Forests have significant adverse impacts on Forest resources, public health and safety, and the agency s ability to allocate space in the face of increasing constraints on the use of National Forest System land. A permit system allows the agency to address these problems more expeditiously, more effectively, and more equitably. These adverse impacts include:

  • The spread of disease;
  • Pollution from inadequate site clean-up;
  • Soil compaction from inadequate site restoration;
  • Damage to archaeological sites; and
  • Traffic congestion.

More information on noncommercial group uses can be found on the national website at: https://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/special_non_com_uses.shtml#sp-noncom-a


Weddings, Family Gatherings, and Other Large Groups

Since each District is unique, we recommend that you contact the District office where you intend to hold your event or group activity for specific information.

Here are some things to consider. This list is not all-inclusive.

  • All garbage associated with the event must be picked up and removed. Incorporate "Leave No Trace" principles during your visit.
  • Any and all fire restrictions require full compliance, and the group is required to supply adequate water and tools for properly extinguishing any campfires built.
  • Introduction of non-native species is prohibited. This means, use of birdseed, rose petals, rice, etc. are not allowed.
  • Some areas of the forest will not accommodate groups due to resource damage. Please contact the District office for information.


Outfitting and Guiding Services

Outfitting is defined as renting on or delivering to National Forest System lands for financial compensation or other gain any saddle or pack animal, vehicle, boat, camping gear, or similar supplies or equipment.

Guiding is defined as providing services or assistance for financial compensation or other gain to individuals or groups on National Forest System lands.


For more information here is a link to our National website for Special Uses.



Applications for Outfitting and Guiding, Recreation Events and Non Commercial Uses can be found at:



NOTE: SF-299 form is the form to use for Outfitting and Guiding.


For assistance in completing your application and other required documentation please contact the following:


Pisgah National Forest, Appalachian, Grandfather and Pisgah Ranger Districts

Darlene Huntsinger

Email: dhuntsinger@fs.fed.us

Or call 828-689-9694


Nantahala National Forest, Nantahala Ranger District

Bo Wood: josephbwood@fs.fed.us

Or call 828-524-6441


Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah and Tusquitee Ranger Districts

Robert (Bob) Vance: revance@fs.fed.us

Or call 828-837-5152


Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests

Donald Simon: dwsimon@fs.fed.us

Or call 910-576-6391 extension 118