Last updated:

Bureau of Land Management
For Release: Friday, February 6, 2004

Fact Sheet
Federal Register Notice
Sharon Wilson
(202) 452-5130
Lee Larson
(202) 452-5168
Ted Hudson
(202) 452-5042

BLM Extends Time on Commercial Recreation Permits

Defines enforcement of fee violations

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is amending its regulations on Special Recreation Permits and Recreation Use Permits to provide better customer service to the public, reduce administrative paperwork, and provide consistent law enforcement at fee sites on BLM-managed public lands.

Special Recreation Permits
The maximum term for Special Recreation Permits, now issued for up to five years, has been doubled. The new rule does not automatically set the term of all permits at 10 years, but simply allows field managers to select an appropriate term for up to 10 years. The BLM will consider the purpose of the permit, the needs of the permittee, and the public interest in determining the appropriate term.

The BLM will continue to monitor operations conducted under a Special Recreation Permit and will evaluate the operator each year to determine if he or she is in compliance with the terms of the permit.

Recreation Use Permits
The amendment of regulations for Recreation Use Permits for Fee Areas establishes that the BLM will cite and penalize persons using campgrounds and other fee areas if they do not

  • obtain a permit,
  • pay necessary fees, or
  • display proof of payment according to BLM instructions posted at the site.

The BLM may also cite and penalize people if they use forged permits or use another person’s permit. This new section also states that failure to display proof of payment on a vehicle parked in a fee area is evidence of non-payment. This strengthens the BLM’s enforcement capability and reduces costs by establishing an evidentiary threshold that the defendant must overcome or be found guilty.

The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages more land — 261 million surface acres — than any other Federal agency, mostly in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1.8 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural and other resources on the public lands.


BLM Changes to Permits for Recreation on Public Lands

Special Recreation Permits:

  • Nearly 100 comments were received on BLM’s proposed rule, published in the Federal Register October 1, 2002. Of those comments, 88 supported extending the maximum term without reservation. The remainder expressed support for the change if the BLM would base its determination of the permit term on the performance of the permittee.

  • Special Recreation Permits are generally obtained by commercial outfitters and guides, including river-running companies (about 3,000), sponsors of competitive events (about 1,000), “snow bird” seasonal mobile home campers who use the BLM’s long-term visitor areas (about 14,000), and private individuals and groups using certain special areas.

  • The increase of the maximum term for Special Recreation Permits will affect primarily the first of these categories – commercial outfitters and guides, which include river-running companies.

  • The rule does not change the fee structure at all, but benefits these businesses by giving them a more secure permit tenure, which will help them justify financing from lenders.

  • The existing regulations are in 43 CFR part 2930.

  • Other sections of the existing regulations on recreation authorizations (see section 2932.56) provide for the amendment, suspension or revocation of the permit if an operator violates permit stipulations. These provisions apply to all permits, regardless of term length.

  • Permittees are subject to rigorous monitoring and may lose their permits for poor performance under other provisions of the regulations (see CFR 2932.56).

  • If there is a problem with noncompliance, the burden is on the operator to prove that he or she has remedied the problem.

  • The BLM will determine the appropriate term of the permit on a case-by-case basis. The BLM will consider each application separately and may issue a permit for any period of time from the 10-year maximum term to a season or even a single day.

  • The 10-year term will be more desirable from both a business and a land management perspective.

    • It will allow outfitters, guides and river-running enterprises to
      • avoid the expense and inconvenience of more frequent permit renewal,
      • secure financing more easily (based on lenders knowing that permit terms are longer), and
      • engage in long-term business planning.

    • For BLM staff, the amendment should lead to a small reduction in administrative costs by reducing the analysis and paperwork required for more frequent permit renewal. The longer- term permits will also allow BLM managers greater range and flexibility when setting a term, taking into account:
      • the level of permittee investment,
      • geographic location and resource considerations,
      • anticipated changes or time frames in land use allocations or planning decisions,
      • BLM experience in managing and monitoring the type of permitted use, and
      • the type, complexity and extent of the proposed activity.

Recreation Use Permits for Fee Sites:

  • During fiscal year 2001, the BLM issued about 670,000 Recreation Use Permits for use of fee sites, with revenues totaling about $3.9 million. The cost of such a permit averaged a little under $6 each.

  • The final rule does not affect fees and should have no effect on the number of Recreation Use Permits the BLM will issue.

  • This rule adds a section to 43 CFR part 2930, subpart 2933, prohibiting

    • the failure to obtain a permit,
    • the failure to pay for a permit, and
    • fraudulent use of permits or other documents to avoid paying a fee.

  • Once the BLM establishes that the defendant did not display a permit, the defendant has the burden of overcoming the presumption of non-payment by proving that he or she paid the fee.

  • The new section also lists the penalties that may be imposed upon conviction.