Special Recreation Permits

New Special Recreation Permit Guidance Regarding Commercial, Competitive, and Organized Group Activities and Events Emphasizes 180 Day Notification for Applicants

Special Recreation Permits (SRPs) 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 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement 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. These are outlined below.

BLM’s SRP program is designed to satisfy recreational demand within allowable use levels in an equitable, safe, and enjoyable manner while minimizing adverse resource impacts and user conflicts.  SRPs are managed in a manner which is consistent with objectives and decisions determined in resource management plans, recreation area management plans, or in their absence, through management objectives resulting from analysis of resources and visitor use for each area.

What are the Types of Special Recreation Permits?

  • Commercial Use: 
    Commercial use means recreation use of the public lands and related waters for business or financial gain. The activity, service, or use is commercial if any of these conditions is present:
    • 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.  Compensation for recreation services may come from participants and/or other sources.
    • Anyone collects a fee or receives other compensation that is not strictly a sharing of actual expenses, or exceeds actual expenses, incurred for the purposes of the activity, service, or use.
    • There is paid, public advertising to seek participants.
    • Participants pay for a duty of care (i.e., an expectation of safety).

Note: Use by non-profits and scientific, educational, and/or therapeutic institutions and organizations are commercial and subject to a permit requirement when the use meets any of the above criteria.

Examples: Outfitters and guides, fundraising (including non-profits), jeep tours, horse trail and wagon train rides, cattle drives, and photography associated with a recreational activity.

  • Competitive Use: 
    Competitive use means any organized, sanctioned, or structured use, event, or activity on public lands or related waters in which two or more contestants compete and either or both of the following elements apply:
    • Participants register, enter, or complete an application for the event.
    • A predetermined course or area is designated.
    • One or more individuals contesting an established record (e.g., or speed or endurance) is also a competitive use.

Examples: off-highway (OHV) vehicle races, horse endurance rides, mountain bike races, rodeos, poker runs, orienteering, land speed records, and Eco-Challenge events

  • 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 motocross event, firewood sales in a BLM campground, and shuttle services.

  • Special Area Use: 
    Special Areas are areas officially designated by statute or Secretarial order.

Examples: Camping in Long Term Visitor Areas, floating BLM managed rivers, and activities occurring in designated wilderness, wilderness study areas, and national monuments.

  • Organized Group Activity and Events: 
    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.

General SRP Qualifications

With a few exceptions, you must obtain a SRP for commercial use, including vending associated with recreational use and/or competitive use.  If the BLM determines that an SRP is necessary based on planning decisions, resource concerns, potential user conflicts, or public health and safety, we may require a SRP for other activities such as: recreation use of special areas; non-commercial, noncompetitive, organized group activities; or events, and/or academic, educational, scientific, or research uses.

How do I Submit a SRP Application?

At a minimum, all SRP applications must include a signature, date, a map of the location or locations of the proposed activity, and a completed plan of operations.  To make an informed decision regarding your application, we may require additional information regarding your proposed activity.  Note:  Submitting a completed SRP application in no way guarantees that the BLM will issue a permit.

SRP Application Processing

The BLM requires that applications be submitted within 180 days prior to the event or activity for processing.  At the discretion of the authorizing officer, and under special circumstances, the BLM may approve a shorter application timeframe.  In some circumstances, an application may require more than 180 days to complete.  Be sure to contact your local BLM field office for additional information.  We will contact you within 30 days of submitting your application if we anticipate processing delays .  The earlier your completed application is submitted, the better chance you will have of obtaining a permit in time for your event.

SRP Issuance

The BLM has discretion over whether or not to issue an SRP.  We will base our decision on whether or not to issue a permit on a number of factors that include but are not limited to: (a) conformance with laws and land use plans; (b) public safety; (c) conflicts with other uses; (d) resource protection; (e) the public interest served; (f) whether in the past you complied with the terms of another SRP or authorization from BLM and/or other agencies; and (g) such other information that the BLM finds appropriate (see 43 CFR § 2392.26 (a)-(g)).  The decision to grant or deny an application is appealable.

Map Requirements for Application

Permit applications should include a map or maps of the proposed event/activity site. Maps are preferred when submitted on a full 71/2- minute, 1:24,000 scale United States Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle maps.  In cases where the proposed event/activity would take place over a large enough area that it will require more than four USGS quadrangle maps, then a 1:100,000 scale land status map is acceptable - if the activity and/or course locations are clearly depicted.  Where applicable, all maps must show: start/finish locations, spectator areas, pit areas, parking areas, check points, course monitor locations, road crossings that will be monitored, staging areas, campsites, fuel stops, needed road closures, etc.  SRP applications that are submitted without adequate maps or description(s) of the proposed activity area may be returned with a request for more information. 

SRP Liability Insurance Requirements

An insurance policy covering property damage—including third-party damage (damage to property other than that owned by the permit holder of the United States)—personal injury, or loss of life that arises in any way from activities connected with the authorized use and occupancy is required of all commercial and competitive use permit holders unless the BLM waives the insurance requirement (e.g., as with self-insured Federal and state government agencies).

If liability insurance is required, and prior to beginning any authorized/permitted activities, you will be required to submit proof of public liability insurance naming the United States Government as additionally insured.  The name on your application and the named insured, must be the same person and/or entity.

The certificate of liability insurance must state the following: “The United States Government, Bureau of Land Management is additionally insured with respects to the ongoing operations of the named insured.”  Generally, the minimal (low risk) amount of insurance required is as follows: $30,000.00 for damage to property; $300,000.00 per occurrence for bodily injury or death; and $600,000.00 in a minimum annual aggregate. 

General Guidelines for Minimum Insurance Requirement 

Example of ActivityPer OccurrencePer Annual Aggregate
Low Risk: general noncompetitive and noncommercial activities, such as group camping, group activities, mounted orienteering, backpacking, or dog trials.$300,000$600,000
Moderate Risk: whitewater boating, horse endurance rides, mountain bike races, rock climbing (with ropes), ultralight aircraft events, rodeos, or commercial hunting.$500,000$1,000,000
High Risk: bungee jumping, speed record events, competitive OHV events, unaided rock climbing, heli-skiing, or aviation-assisted activities.$1,000,000$2,000,000-$10,000,000

SRP Fees

If more than 50 hours of BLM staff time is required for processing a permit, cost recovery of all direct expenses related to processing the permit will be charged to the applicant.  If the BLM anticipates that the 50 hour threshold will be exceeded then cost recovery will begin immediately,
The initial minimum commercial use permit fee is $105.00 and must be prepaid before authorization; thereafter the annual fee is a minimum of $105.00 or 3 percent of gross receipts, whichever is greater.  For competitive events and organized group events, there is a per-day participant fee of $5.00 per person, or the minimum fee of $105.00, whichever is greater.  All fees are nonrefundable.

Other Licenses

The applicant must comply with all laws and regulations of other Federal, state, and local agencies that apply specifically to the permitted activity and area(s) of use e.g. New Mexico Game and Fish Guide and Outfitters License, State of New Mexico business license, BLM travel plans, etc.

Written Permission from Landowners

In the event the applicant proposes the use of public lands that can only be accessed via private lands, the applicant must submit to the BLM written permission to cross those private lands affected by the proposed activity.

Photo of Motorcycles 

Do I Need a Permit?

Please ask yourself the following questions:

-Will your event occur on or involve public lands?

-Are you charging any kinds of fees?

-Do you expect to make money on the event or is the fee to cover expenses?

-Will there be a competition of any kind?

-Will you advertise the event?

-Will you mark a course?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may need a permit from the BLM.

If you are uncertain if your activity or event will require a SRP, please contact your nearest BLM field office.

Download SRP Application