Permit Boat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits under various wildlife law and treaties at a number of offices throughout the country.  Permits enable the public and scientific communities to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities that would be otherwise prohibited by law. Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife.  Additionally, some permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activates to go forward.

Permits are handled through specific programs such as International Affairs (Management Authority), Endangered SpeciesLaw Enforcement, and Migratory Birds, and National Wildlife Refuge System 

Permitting at JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge 

Most special events and activities held JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge require Special Use Permits (SUP) and are issued after the Refuge Manager has assessed the activity to be appropriate and compatible with the Refuge purposes. Refuge activities, including but not limited to scientific research, organized education activities, first amendment activities, and all commercial activities require a Special Use Permit. Permits must be secured before any special use activity commences on the Refuge lands and waters. Plan ahead and allow for 30 working days to process a permit request. In addition, if significant staff time is expended in the evaluation of a complex permitting request, the applicant will be billed for these staff costs. 


COMMERCIAL Activities Special Use Permit

Any commercial operation, such as guided tours (eg., fishing, ecotours, boating) and commercial filming (audio, video, photographic products of monetary value) is prohibited within the Refuge unless a Special Use Permit is issued by the Refuge Management. 

In addition, the following components are required at the same time the SUP application is submitted:

All commercial users provide a copy of the insurance certificate identifying the Refuge as an Additional Insured Party. The refuge name and address needs to be listed on the insurance certificate under the Certificate Holder section. The minimum amount of commercial liability insurance by a U.S. company is generally one million dollars. However, there may be a reduced amount of liability insurance coverage of $500,000 that can apply to some smaller commercial users if their application reflects details of lower-risk commercial services. Insurance must be carried by the permit requester at the time of the application submission and throughout the requested time of the permit. 

All Commercial Use SUPs will be subject to a base fee of $150.00, and additional fees may apply. Checks need to be made out to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

We issue Commercial Use SUPs at the beginning of October that run to the end of September of the following year. Depending on the need to ensure protection of refuge resources and provide for permit monitoring, the fees may increase as cost re-imbursement for required staff. All fees are due at the time of permit issuance and only checks from US banks or money orders are acceptable to pay permit fees. While it is possible to remit fee payment via mail, it is best for the fee remittance to be paid in person at the Refuge Office after the Refuge Manager has corresponded with the applicant and given an approval for a Commercial Use SUP.

Please note that commercial buses are not allowed on Wildlife Drive. Contact Tarpon Bay Explorers (official refuge concessionaire) at 239-472-8900 to arrange tram service for large groups to tour the Refuge.

Please complete the application provided through the link below and submit to Bob Gerwig at

Click Here>  Commercial Activity Special Use Permit

RESEARCH Activities Special Use Permit

Priority will be given to studies or activities that contribute to the enhancement, protection, use, preservation, and management of native wildlife populations and their habitats. The following factors that will be considered in the determination of whether to issue an SUP for research: 

• Will the project benefit the Refuge?

• Does the project address an issue of direct management concern to the Refuge?

• Does the project address an issue of concern for overall South Florida ecosystem?

• Can the activity/research be conducted elsewhere?

• Is the activity compatible with the objectives of the Refuge?

• Will the use require the use of government equipment or personnel?

• Is the applicant(s) qualified? 

If you feel that your research project has sound merit, please complete the application provided through the link below and submit the application with a copy of your detailed research proposal to Jeremy Conrad at

Click Here> Research Special Use Permit

GENERAL Special Use Permit

For miscellaneous one-time events, such as educational activities, First Amendment activities, and compatible use gatherings. Please complete an application for a General Special Use Permit provided through the link here and submit to Bob Gerwig at First Amendment gatherings will not be subject to staff fees.

Click Here> GeneralSpecial Use Permit 


Contact the Refuge Office for more information about Special Use Permits – (239) 472-1100.

Robert Gerwig: (239) 472-1100 ext. 231

Jeremy Conrad: (239) 472-1100 ext. 230

Mailing Address:
JN “Darling” NWR
1 Wildlife Dr.
Sanibel, FL 33957