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When do I need a film permit?

Casual-use activities (i.e., noncommercial activities occurring on an occasional or irregular basis that result in little or no impact to public lands) involving still photography or recreational videotaping do not require a permit. 

Still Photography. Public land visitors and recreational, professional and amateur photographers do NOT need a permit to take still photographs unless they will:

  • Use models, sets or props that are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities;
  • Take place where members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  • Take place at a location where additional administrative costs are likely. 

Commercial Filming. A permit is required for all commercial filming on public lands.  Commercial filming is defined as use of motion picture, videotaping, sound recording, or other moving image or audio recording equipment on public 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 including activities associated with broadcasts for news programs.  For purposes of this definition, creation of a product for sale includes a film, videotape, television broadcast, or documentary of participants in commercial sporting or recreation event created for the purpose of generating income.

Commercial filming or still photography will NOT be permitted if it is determined that:

  • There is likelihood of resource damage that cannot be mitigated;
  • There would be an unreasonable disruption of the public’s use and enjoyment of the site (beyond short-term interruption); or
  • The activity poses health or safety risks to the public that cannot be mitigated.

Each office authorizes filming on public lands within its jurisdiction, and each location is unique and subject to different conditions. 

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Point of Contact

Commercial photographers and filming companies should contact the local BLM field office to determine whether a permit is required.