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film crew interviews a park ranger
A film crew interviews a park ranger for a documentary at Capitol Reef NM.


Permits are required for many types of activities on Federal lands. This page contains information about some of the most common permits required for minerals and geology activities including:

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Scientific Research and Collecting

Geologic research in parks is vital to the understanding and continued advancement of geology as a discipline. Geologic research is also important to enhancing understanding of the geologic features and processes in parks. To apply for a geologic scientific research and/or collection permit, go to


Educational Collecting

No collecting of park geologic resources for for classroom educational purposes is permitted. Under Federal law, all park features and resources are protected. Anyone with information about illegal activities or who would like to report suspicious activity in the national parks should call 1-888-NPS-CRIME (888-677-2746). You may speak directly to a ranger or remain anonymous when reporting these activities. Collecting for scientific research requires a Scientific Research and Collecting permit (see above).


Educational Fee Waivers

Many parks extend fee waivers to groups of students from recognized educational institutions who visit for official educational purposes.

Each park has distinct requirements for obtaining fee waivers. Generally such waivers should be applied for at least two weeks prior to the planned visit either through an official form or a letter of request. Groups seeking an educational fee waiver should contact the park they plan on visiting.


Rockhounding/Recreational Collecting

Collecting, rockhounding, and gold panning of rocks, minerals, and paleontological specimens, for either recreational or educational purposes is generally prohibited in all units of the National Park System (36 C.F.R. § 2.1(a) and § 2.5(a)). Violators of this prohibition are subject to criminal penalties. Anyone with information about illegal activities or who would like to report suspicious activity in the national parks should call 1-888-NPS-CRIME (888-677-2746). You may speak directly to a ranger or remain anonymous when reporting these activities.

There are two exceptions to the general prohibition. Limited recreational gold panning is allowed in the Whiskeytown unit of the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area in California, in accordance with regulations at 36 C.F.R. § 7.91.

The second exception involves some Alaska park units, where surface collection by hand (including hand-held gold pans) and for personal recreational use only, of rocks and minerals (except for silver, platinum, gemstones, and fossils) is allowed in accordance with 36 C.F.R. § 13.20(c). Shovels, pickaxes, sluice boxes, and dredges may not be used to collect these items. If collecting these resources is likely have a significant adverse impact on park resources or visitor enjoyment, the park superintendent will prohibit or restrict collection.


Special Use Permit

Special use permits are required for a wide variety of activities in parks, these range from sporting activities and weddings to Trans park Oil & Gas pipeline activities and nonfederal mineral development.

A special park use is defined as a short-term activity that takes place in a park area and:

  • Provides a benefit to an individual, group or organization, rather than the public at large;
  • Requires written authorization and some degree of management control from the NPS in order to protect park resources and the public interest;
  • Is not prohibited by law or regulation; and
  • Is neither initiated, sponsored, nor conducted by the NPS.

A special park use may involve either rights (such as first amendment or mining claim rights) or privileges, and may or may not support the purposes for which a park was established.

The NPS may issue Special Use Permits only if the proposed activity will not:

  • Cause injury or damage to park resources;
  • Be contrary to the purpose for which the park was established;
  • unreasonably impair the atmosphere or peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic or commemorative locations within the park; or
  • unreasonably interfere with the interpretive visitor service or other program activities, or with the administrative activities of the NPS; or
  • substantially impair the operation of public facilities or services of NPS concessionaires or contractors; or
  • present a clear and present danger to public health and safety; or
  • result in significant conflict with other existing uses.

If issued, the Special Use Permit will contain any other terms and conditions that the park deems necessary to protect park resources or public safety (36 C.F.R. § 1.6(e)), including a performance bond. Other applicable authorities include 36 C.F.R. Part 6, which governs solid waste placement and disposal; NPS Management Policies; and the National Environmental Policy Act and other compliance requirements.

If you think that you might need a special use permit for an activity that you are planning. Find out how to apply for one by contacting the park's Special Use Permit coordinator.


Commercial Tours

A commercial tour consists of one or more persons traveling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced, or sold for leisure/recreational purposes by an organization that realizes financial gain through the provision of the service. Falling within this definition are tours which require the use of a vehicle: bus, van, sedan, or aircraft as the primary means of transport during the tour. When applied to tours occurring on land, the fee refers to essentially road-based tours. Such tours do not include biking, horseback riding, or rafting, etc., nor do they include shuttle services providing transportation between two points.

Entrance fees for tour vehicles are similar at all National Park Service fee areas. Please contact the park(s) you plan to visit for more information.


Commercial Filming Permits

The immediately recognizable landmarks and vistas of the National Parks have provided locations for a wide variety of films, commercials, and print advertisements. If you are planning to do any filming or photography involving talent, products, or props in front of a camera, you will need to contact the park(s) you're interested in to apply for a special use permit.

The National Park Service requires a certificate of liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000.00 naming the United States (National Park Service) as additional insured for all commercial film and photography projects.

Permits for filming and photography may not be issued for areas of high visitation and busy weekends. Other areas are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Park staff will be assigned to projects involving areas that are closed to the general public, such as building interiors or wild land closure areas.


Mining Claims

Persons wishing to conduct mineral operations on a mining claim (either un-patented or patented) that was located under the General Mining Law of 1872 must comply with the National Park Service's regulations at 36 C.F.R. Part 9A. These regulations apply only to mining claims, not to other types of mineral development. The regulations are designed to permit claimants to exercise their rights while preserving the integrity of the National Park System units. The regulations require a prospective operator to submit a complete, detailed plan that describes the proposed operation.

The NPS then analyzes the environmental effects of the proposal as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, the NPS Management Policies section 8.7.1, and other legal authorities.

Often, because of the need to mitigate the impacts of the operation on park resources, the NPS approves the proposed plan on the condition that the operator agrees to adhere to various stipulations. The NPS also requires operators to post a bond to ensure that mining operations conform to the plan and that the NPS will be able to reclaim the site if the operator does not.

If, because of the presence of sensitive environmental resources, no level of mineral development would be acceptable, the National Park Service can acquire the mining claim.

Additional Mining Claims Reference:
Mining in the Parks Act, 16 U.S.C. §§1901-1908.


Oil and Gas Operations Permit

In the National Park Service Organic Act and the acts that established individual units, the Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to develop regulations for managing and protecting units.

Based on these authorities, the National Park Service promulgated regulations at 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart B, governing the exercise of nonfederal oil and gas rights in all units. The regulations for nonfederal oil and gas, like those for mining claims, require prospective operators to obtain National Park Service approval of their plans of operations and to secure reclamation bonds before they commence operations in a unit. Because of regulatory exemptions, about 70% of the 580 nonfederal oil and gas operations in 13 units are outside the scope of the 36 CFR 9B regulations, that is, their operators do not have to obtain approval from the National Park Service to operate.


Trans park Oil and Gas Pipelines

The term "Trans park oil and gas pipelines" refers to pipelines that begin and end outside a national park unit, are associated with a right-of-way, and are not tied to an oil and gas operation in the park.

Activities associated with existing and proposed Trans park pipelines are subject to NPS Special Use Permits. Activities that require a permit include mowing and trimming vegetation, inspection or testing pipelines, removal of fluids, and installing, shutting down or replacing a pipeline. 36 C.F.R. § 5.3 Business Activities covers maintenance activities within a pipeline right-of-way. 36 C.F.R. § 5.7 Construction of buildings or other facilities covers pipeline construction.

To apply for a Special Use Permit for a Trans park pipeline, you should contact the park's Special Use Permit coordinator.


Federal Mineral Leasing

Persons wishing to lease federal minerals in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area , or Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, or in other national parks, must comply with BLM regulations at 43 C.F.R. Part 3160 and Part 3590. All of the activities associated with leasing in Glen Canyon, Lake Mead, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Areas are subject to NPS consent and a NPS finding of "no significant adverse effect." In other parks, BLM must consult with the NPS before issuing any permits or approving any operations, but is not required to obtain NPS consent.

Persons wishing to lease federal minerals on Indian lands within parks must comply with the Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations at 25 C.F.R. Parts 211 and 212. These leases are also governed by BLM regulations at 43 C.F.R. Part 3160 and Part 3590. The BLM must consult with the NPS before issuing any permits or approving any operations, but is not required to obtain NPS consent.

If it is necessary to cross through a park unit in order to reach a federal mineral lease outside the unit, the NPS will regulate the access by a Special Use Permit.


Non federally Owned Minerals

This section describes the permit requirements for extracting nonfederal minerals in a national park unit. These requirements do not apply to the minerals on mining claims, which are regulated by 36 C.F.R. Part 9A or to nonfederal oil and gas, which is regulated by 36 C.F.R. Part 9B.

The NPS regulates the mining and removal of nonfederal minerals with Special Use Permits as a "business activity within a park area," under the authority of 36 C.F.R. § 5.3. Under 36 C.F.R. § 1.6, Special Use Permits must contain terms and conditions that protect park resources and public safety, and that will ensure compliance with applicable legal authorities. Other applicable authorities include 36 C.F.R. Part 6 , which governs waste rock placement and disposal; NPS Management Policies; and the National Environmental Policy Act and other compliance requirements.



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Last Updated: January 04, 2017