Event/Commercial Permits

Recreation Commercial Services Analysis

Superior National Forest shares findings from Needs Assessment analysis of commercial services offered to recreationists

The Superior National Forest has been examining the use of recreational commercial services provided on the Forest. To fully understand all the issues, the Forest sought information from the public, special use permittees, partners, tribes and others who use or have knowledge about recreational commercial services on the Forest, who recreate on the Forest, or who have other relevant concerns regarding recreation and recreational commercial uses offered on the Forest.

The Forest would like to share findings from the first step of the Recreation Commercial Services Analysis, the Needs Assessment, which was completed in early November. Public involvement included two open houses and generated over 15,000 form letters and approximately 20 unique responses. The Needs Assessment provides a framework to determine where public and agency need exists for current and additional commercial services.

The evaluative criteria ranking in the Needs Assessment showed four activities in the general forest area (outside of wilderness) were there was a higher need for commercial services: Dog sledding, Winter camping, Ice fishing, and Rock climbing.

The majority of activities showed a moderate or lower need for commercial services to supply opportunities for visitor participation. This indicates that in some areas there is low demand, access is easy, and visitors are capable of pursuing activities on their own.

  • There were a number of activities for which there is a moderate need for recreational commercial services including: Backcountry skiing/boarding, Backpacking, Big game hunting, Biking (mountain), Biking (road), Camping (canoe-based), Camping (motor boat), Canoeing/kayaking, Education, Hiking, Horseback riding (day and overnight), Jeep/OHV/motorcycle, Photography (includes night sky tours), Rock climbing, Towboats, and Yurts.

In Wilderness, there were three activities that showed a higher need for commercial services: Backpacking, Winter camping, and Dog sledding.

  • There were several activities that showed a moderate need, Camping (canoe-based), Camping (motorboat based), Canoeing/kayaking (day use), Cross-country skiing/snowshoeing, Education, Fishing (day and overnight), Hunting, Ice fishing, Photography, including night sky tours, and Towboats.

What these activities have in common includes increased time with participants for discussion, interpretation, and development of wilderness-based primitive skills and ethics—all of which can be beneficial to developing knowledge and appreciation of wilderness. Additionally, dispersing certain types of uses (for example, those that result in higher encounters and/or cause resource-based impacts) from wilderness to locations outside of the wilderness may be beneficial for both physical and social natural resources.

In general, forest trends that were common among many respondents included the following:

  • More people are participating in shorter trips and using base camps than in the past; it is often difficult to find campsites closer to the entry points and within 1-2 days of entry points due to this.
  • Though most respondents focused on the wilderness area, several thought that there were additional opportunities outside of the wilderness, particularly biking. Others said that their business needed the wilderness opportunities to operate.
  • Many respondents advocated for changes in quotas for various entry points, saying that this would help distribute use.
  • Respondents were equally split on resource and social concerns, with some stating that they did not have any concerns, while others mentioned negative effects in high use areas of the wilderness.
  • The Moose Chain in particular was often mentioned for its high level of motorized and non-motorized use. Crowding was reported in this area and at other entry points.

The Forest plans to move forward with the second step of the Recreation Commercial Services process, the Capacity Analysis, in upcoming months. The Capacity Analysis determines the estimated number of visitors that can use a specific area, during a defined time, based on resource and setting capability. 

Event and Commercial Use Permits

Several uses on the national forest require a permit. These include:


Events which involve use by a group of more than 75 people and/or a fee or collects a donation from participants require a special use permit.

Application for holding a recreation event on the Forest.

Commercial Outfitting and Guiding

Our policy is to manage special uses on National Forest lands in a manner that protects natural resource values, public health and safety, and is consistent with the Forest land and resource management plans. 

Who needs a special use permit? 

Commercial activities must obtain a permit when they charge a participation fee or where the primary purpose is the sale of goods or services, regardless of whether the activity is intended to produce a profit. Permits control recreational land use, protecting natural resources from overuse or damage. Special use permits must be obtained through the Superior National Forests.  

What is an Outfitter or Guide?  

Outfitters or Guides on National Forests lands and Grasslands provide specialized knowledge, skills, experience, and equipment that general recreationists might not otherwise possess. They contribute to high quality opportunities for people to recreate on public lands regardless of their skill level or prior experience. 

How do I apply to be an Outfitter or Guide?  

Proponents submitting a new outfitter or guide proposal must submit a complete proposal form by the following dates: January 31st for the summer season and year-round permits or June 30th for the winter season to the District Special Use Permit Administrator. Proposals will begin being evaluated after each proposal deadline date. The preferred format for a proposal is a well thought out Business Plan.  

What is a detailed “Business Plan”?  

A business plan should include sufficient detail of your proposal that the Forest Service can make an informed decision whether to accept an application. At a minimum, the Business Plan should address these points:  

  • Business and contact name  
  • Address and phone number/email  
  • Background – technical ability to guide 
  • Proposed services – type of guiding service; number of service days*  
  • Proposed locations and season of use – be specific; entry points, trail heads, routes, anticipated number of trips. 
  • Equipment provided  
  • Transportation of clients  
  • Proposed fees  
  • Evaluation of public need for this service – targeted audience or clientele and plans for engaging youth or underserved groups 
  • Comparison with any similar existing services already under a Special Use permit  

*Service day = 1 client x 1 day on National Forest System Land 

Once a proposal is received and the seasonal submission deadline has past, the proposal will be evaluated in accordance with national policy. If a proposal is found to be acceptable an application will need to be completed. Application will include: 

  • A signed Special Use Application and Permit for Outfitting and Guiding (Form SF 299). 

  • A signed and completed Outfitter Operating Plan. 

  • Current insurance certificate included in the application package that shows the United States as secondary insured with a combine single limit coverage of $1,000,000.00.  The agency will determine that the complete application complies with the Forest’s land and resource management plan; National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements are met; there is a demonstrated need for the activity and the use is appropriate on National Forest System Lands; and the applicant has the Technical and Financial capability to provide outfitting & guiding services. 

  • Additional resource - FS Handbook 2709.14

Commercial Filming and Photography

A permit is required for all commercial filming activities on National Forest System lands, and for certain commercial still photography, except when these activities involve breaking news. 

If the proposed filming or photography is located within the Wilderness, additional information may be required and additional screening will be conducted. The following information provides more details.


What is considered commercial?  How to apply for a permit and what is required 

Commercial filming and photography request form

Insurance requirement

Standard form 299 - Application for transportation and utility systems and facilities on federal lands. 



If you have any questions about this information, you may contact one of our Forest offices or send your inquiry via email to:  r9_superior_nf@fs.fed.us