US Forest Service

Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison 

A special use permit is required for all commercial filming activities on National Forest System lands. Commercial filming is defined as the use of motion pictures, videotaping, sound recording, or other moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of actors, models, sets or props, but not activities associated with broadcasts for news programs. For purposes of this definition, the creation of a product for sale includes but is not limited to a film, videotape, television broadcast, or documentary of historical events, wildlife, natural events, features, subjects, or participants in a sporting or recreation event and so forth, when created to generate income. The use of a drone or unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for commercial filming purposes is also regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and area restrictions within the National Forest System still apply.


Point of contact for the US Forest Service Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests


Email completed permit applications to Payment of the $100 application fee can be made with a credit card over the phone by calling


Fees & Links

Moving Photography (Filming)

  • 1–10 people – $150/day + $75 Staging
  • 11–30 people – $250/day + $125 Staging
  • 31–60 people – $450/day + $225 Staging
  • 61–100 people – $600/day + $300 Staging
  • 100+ People – $600/day + $300 Staging

Still Photography

  • 1-3 people – No charge
  • 4–10 people – $100/day
  • 11–30 people – $150/day
  • 31–49 people – $250/day
  • 50-100 people – $300/day
  • 100+ People – $300 (or as determined by appraisal)

When do you need a permit to film in National Forests?

Require a fee for the professional use of still photography equipment, motion picture equipment, or other videotaping equipment on National Forest System lands under the following circumstances:

  • If photographs, motion pictures, or videos of National Forest users will be made with the express purpose of selling the products to those same users.
  • If photographs, motion pictures, or videos will be made under an existing contract to sell them.
  • If photographs, motion pictures, or videos of commercial products will be made on National Forest lands for advertising purposes.
  • If the photography, motion picture, or video taking is reasonably likely to affect the National Forest System lands or their resources adversely.

A fee is not required under the following circumstances:

  • Casual use of photography of the National Forest.
  • Professional photography where the photographer or any assistants are not under contract or being paid a salary for assignments on the National Forest System lands.

What is commercial filming?

Commercial filming” means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience to generate income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature films, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may consist of advertising a product or service or using actors, models, sets, or props.

Do I need a permit for still photography?

In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still Commercial photography. The following uses do not require a permit.


  • Casual use of photography of the National Forest.
  • Professional photography where the photographer or any assistants are not under contract or being paid a salary for assignments on the National Forest System lands.

If I’m a social media influencer, do I need a permit?

Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.

All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.

How do I apply for a permit?

  • Contact a Forest Service office and request an application.
  • Prior to submitting the proposal, you are required to arrange a preapplication meeting at the local Forest Service office where the use is being requested. A staff member will discuss your proposal, potential land use conflicts, application procedures and qualifications, probable time frames, fees, bonding requirements, additional coordination with other agencies, environmental reports, and field reviews.
  • Most commercial uses require additional information with the application. You may need business plans, operating plans, liability insurance, licenses/registrations, or other documents. A commercial use is when an applicant intends to make use of NFS lands for business or financial gain.
  • Complete and submit the application form, including supporting documents, to the local Forest Service office. An incomplete proposal could delay the processing.

Filing Proposal Process: As described in 36 Code of Federal (CFR) 251.54, the process begins with the proponent’s contact with the local Forest Service special use administrator visiting about your proposal. Due to workload priorities, it is best to contact the Forest Service 3-6 months prior to the proposed filming date and begin the discussion. As a result of this discussion, the District Special Use Administrator may request more information, or suggest alternatives that may better suit the proposal, reduce environmental analysis costs, or shorten permit processing timelines.

For convenience, a ‘Commercial Photography and Filming Request’ (1 MB, Adobe PDF) form can be used, or the proponent can submit all of this information in another summarized format.  The above form is not an application for a special use permit. It is only provided as a convenience to outline the proposed activity which the Forest Service will evaluate.

Evaluation Process: After the initial discussion, the requester must provide detailed information about the proposal. This information will be used to begin the Forest Service’s evaluation first and second-level screening process found in 36 Code of Federal Regulation 251.54, (e).  Follow-up contacts should be made as a result of the screening evaluations. And the requester informed on their developments.

Application Processing: If the proposal meets the criteria for the evaluation, then the special use administrator will notify the proponent that the agency is ready to accept a written application for a special sue authrorization. Guidance for how to apply for a permit will also be given.  Other key elements of the permitting process include:

  • Insurance: Written proof of insurance must be given to the Forest Service Special Use Administrator. The policy document must name the United States Government as additional insured and provide for thirty (30) days written notification of cancelation (see next section). A copy of other documents, such as applicable County encroachment permits, letters of permission from private land owners, other permittees, etc., will be required before filming.
  • Forest Service Representation: The production company may be required to provide a Forest Service representative to monitor and fire guard during filming. The monitor will act as the District Ranger or Area Manager’s representative in approving or disapproving proposals that occur during filming and will also have the authority to suspend activities for noncompliance. If a Forest Service representative is to be provided, a collection agreement between the Forest Service and production company to cover the salary and mileage of the monitor may be required.
  • Performance Bond: A performance bond or other acceptable methods of surety may be required if the proposal has a potential of resource damage or would require a major clean-up effort such as the removal of a constructed set, use of special effects. etc. The District Ranger or Area Manager will determine if a bond is required on a case-by-case basis.
  • Permit Fee and Recovery Costs: The permit fee is based on the number of production employees and days required to complete the filming. All fees are due and payable, preferably by cashier’s check or money order, prior to filming (usually when the permit is signed). Instructions for fee payments are included on the permit (payable to “USDA Forest Service”). Recovery of Costs may also be applied to recover costs incurred as a result of filming activities or similar project, including but not limited to administrative and personnel costs.
  • Authorization: The permit, as well as the collection agreement if required, must be signed by an authorized production company representative. Proof of authorization to execute documents on behalf of the company must be provided. If the president of the company is unavailable to sign, a letter of authorization must accompany the individual authorized to sign the documents.

How do I answer all the questions?

Name and Address– Include 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 the land.

Map– Provide a detailed map (U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle or equivalent) or plat (survey or equivalent) showing the requested use in relation to NFS land, identification of applicant’s property (if applicable), scale, map legend, legal description, and a north arrow.

Technical and Financial Capability– Provide documentation to assure the Forest Service you are capable of constructing, operating, maintaining, removing the use off NFS land, and reclaiming the land after the authorization terminates.

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.

What fees will I have to pay?

The number of people includes actors, models, and filming and support crew. If the number of people exceeds 100, the authorized officer may order an appraisal to determine fair market value. Absent such an appraisal, the maximum daily rental is as shown on the schedules for both still photography and for motion picture filming.

  • Charge fees for use in excess of 20 days at 85 percent of the daily rate.
  • Additional fees are required for special conditions identified in the following schedule:
  • Traffic control (road closures, $150
  • detours, etc.)
  • Use of Congressional or agency $150 identified areas such as Wilderness, Research Natural Areas
  • Authorized surface disturbances $100 (grading, removal of rocks, use of heavy earthmoving equipment or animals)
  • Special effects (crashes, large $100 pyrotechnics, fire scenes, etc.)
  • A bond may be required for any surface reclamation or restoration activity.

The fee schedule will be updated annually based on the U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U), U.S. City Average.

Commercial Filming

  • 1–10 people – $150/day + $75 Staging
  • 11–30 people – $250/day + $125 Staging
  • 31–60 people – $450/day + $225 Staging
  • 61–100 people – $600/day + $300 Staging
  • 100+ People – $600/day + $300 Staging

Still Photography

  • 1-3 people – No charge
  • 4–10 people – $100/day
  • 11–30 people – $150/day
  • 31–49 people – $250/day
  • 50-100 people – $300/day
  • 100+ People – $300 (or as determined by appraisal)

Need help or more info about obtaining a permit?

The Grand Junction Film Commission would love to help you with your permitting inquiries. If you are planning a production here in Western Colorado that requires Film or Photography Permits. Please contact us for more information and help.


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