Recreation Advocate

The OutdoorWire family websites feature news and information affecting outdoor recreation opportunities and access to public lands. 
3 minutes reading time (646 words)

WHAT IS A SPECIAL RECREATION PERMIT?

Special Recreation Permits are authorizations which allow specified recreational uses of the public lands and related waters. They are issued as a means to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, and provide a mechanism to accommodate commercial recreational uses. Authorized by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, there are five types of uses for which these permits are required: commercial, competitive, vending, individual or group use in special areas, and organized group activity and event use.  In short, if you are going to use public lands and revive a financial gain from that use, a special event permit is required.  The various land management agencies have specific permit requirements such as groups size and application time frames and deadlines.  However, all agencies subscribe to the same basic criteria for defining type of permit required.  The below is a general description for the Special Recreation Permit requirements employed by Bureau of Land Management.

Types of permits:

1. Commercial Use – Commercial Use is defined as recreational use of public lands and related waters for business or financial gain. When any person, group, or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, receive money, amortize equipment, or obtain goods or services, as compensation from participants in recreational activities occurring on public lands, the use is considered commercial.
Examples: Outfitters and guides, jeep tours, horse trail and wagon train rides, cattle drives, and photography associated with a recreational activity.

2. Competitive Use – Competitive Use means any organized, sanctioned, or structured use, event, or activity on public land in which two or more contestants compete and either (1) participants register, enter, or complete an application for the event, or (2) a predetermined course or area is designated.
Examples: OHV races, horse endurance rides, mountain bike races, rodeos.

3. Vending – Vendor permits are temporary, short-term, non-exclusive, revocable authorizations to sell goods or services on public lands in conjunction with a recreation activity.
Examples: T-shirt sales in conjunction with a raft race, a hot dog stand at a motorcross event, firewood sales in a BLM campground, and shuttle services.

4. Special Area Use – Special Areas are areas officially designated by statute or Secretarial order.
Examples: Camping in Long Term Visitor Areas in California and Arizona, floating many BLM-managed rivers, backpacking in Grand Gulch Primitive Area, hiking in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area, and recreational mining in designated areas in California.

5. Organized Group Activity and Event Use – Organized group/event permits are for noncommercial and noncompetitive group activities and recreation events.
Examples: A large scout camp out, a fraternity activity, a large family reunion, or a dual sport event.

Objectives of the BLM recreation permitting system are to satisfy recreational demand within allowable use levels in an equitable, safe, and enjoyable manner while minimizing adverse resource impacts and user conflicts. In issuing recreation permits to recreational users of public lands, the BLM authorizes permittees use of the lands and/or related waters for permitted purposes. This represents a privilege to use public lands and/or related waters which is subject to the terms and conditions of the permits..

Recreation permits are managed in a manner which is consistent with management objectives determined in resource management plans, recreation area management plans, or in their absence, through recreation management objectives resulting from analysis of resources and visitor use for each area.

DO I NEED A PERMIT?

Pre-application Interview Checklist.

  • Are you charging a fee?
  • Do you expect to make money on the event or is the fee to cover expenses?
  • Will there be a competition?
  • Will you advertise?
  • Will you mark a course?
  • Will you be expecting vehicles at your event? (How many?)
  • Will your event involve public lands?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may need a permit.  More information about BLM Special Recreation Permits is available from H-2930-1 Recreation Permit and Fee Administration Handbook.

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