Winnemucca Nevada
Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area
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In general, most activities within the NCA and wilderness areas do not require a permit. This includes most family outings, camping, hunting, sightseeing, following the emigrant trail, traveling in Off-Highway vehicles and horseback riding. However some activities do require a permit. There are three types of permits/authorizations for various uses: 

  • Special Recreation Permits
  • Land-Use Authorizations
  • Visitor Use Agreements


To determine if you need a permit answer the following questions:
  • 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 a large number of vehicles at your event?

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

What is a Special Recreation Permit?

Special Recreation Permits are required when a recreational activity on public lands falls into one of the following categories:

Commercial Uses - this 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 in the NCA:
  • The Burning Man Festival
  • Hunting outfitters and guides
  • Jeep tours (4-wheel drive) that charge participants
  • Equestrian tours and wagon train rides
  • Cattle drives that charge individuals to ride along
  • Filming or photography for profit even if associated with recreational use.
Competitive Uses - this 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 in the NCA:
  • Unique activities such as rocket launching and land sailing.
  • The world land speed record
  • Amateur altitude record rocket launches. 
Organized Group Activities and Event Uses - this type of permit is for non-commercial and non-competitive group activities and recreation events.  Special Recreation Permits are required for any organized group that has the potential to create impacts on public land. 
  • A large scout camp out
  • fraternity activity
  • a large family reunion
  • OHV races
  • horse endurance rides
  • mountain bike races

Vending - this type of permit can be temporary, short-term, non-exclusive, or a revocable authorization to sell goods or services on public lands in conjunction with a recreation activity. 

How to Apply for a Special Recreation Permit.

A Land Use Authorization is needed when conducting commercial activities on public lands that are not recreational in nature. The most common example of this type of activity in the NCA is:

Filming – Still photography, motion pictures or video shooting in support of a commercial venture.

  • Shooting video for a car commercial, a motion picture, or music video
  • A photographer shooting images he or she expects to sell for a profit.

Land Use Authorizations may be granted for uses of public land that involve little or no construction. Such permits convey no possessory interest on the public land. Depending on the complexity of projects, the amount of surface disturbance and the length of time public lands would be utilized, these requests can be quite complex to process.

How to apply for a Land Use Authorization.

Visitor Use Agreements are used to manage small scale group outings that do not necessarily require an SRP. Since SRPs are discretionary in nature, BLM can determine the need for a permit based on potential impacts to natural resources or risks to human life or property. 
All of the following questions must be answered “No” before the Visitor Use Agreement may be approved. If you cannot answer “No” to these questions, a Special Recreation Permit or Land Use Authorization may required. 
Does the proposed activity:
Yes                  No
(   )                  (   )       Have significant impacts on any of the following natural resources and/or unique geographic characteristics including (but not limited to) historic or cultural resources; recreation lands; wilderness areas; wild or scenic rivers; national natural landmarks; sole or principal drinking water aquifers; prime farmlands; wetlands; floodplains; National Conservation Areas; migratory birds; sensitive species and other ecologically significant or critical areas or resources?
(   )                   (   )       Have commercial or competitive elements?
(   )                   (   )       Pose undue risk to public health or safety?
(   )                   (   )       Present conflicts with other visitors?
(   )                   (   )       Involve public advertising?
(   )                   (   )       Charge fees which would result in collections greater than the cost of the event?
 How to Apply for a Visitor Use Agreement. 

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Last updated: 05-14-2008