Laws and Regulations

Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge system has special regulations about what you can and cannot do. You can find these regulations in the 50 Code of Federal Regulations - Subchapter C. Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge has additional hunting and fishing regulations [50 CFR, §32.55(e)]

Refuges are special places where wildlife comes first. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded. 

Special Use Permits (SUP)

Permits are required to do special activities, to access a closed area and for all commercial activities. Permits enable the public to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities and ensures 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 activities to go forward.

Special Use Permits are required in order to conduct the following types of activities.

  • General Activity - Woodcutting, fishing tournaments, one-time events, education activity, etc...
  • Research and Monitoring - research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations
  • Commercial - guiding, agriculture, trapping, audio, video, and photographic products of monetary value


When are special use permits not required?

Special use permits are not required to access an open area like trails or when the approved activity occurs when the refuge is normally open from sunrise to sunset. Contact the refuge to clarify.

Commercial photography and filming on the salt flats:

All commercial activities require a special use permit. The refuge offers free photography and filming special use permits on the salt flats at the Selenite Crystal Digging Area. Drones are prohibited. Artificial light must be preapproved. If approved, the permittee is allowed to access the salt flats 25 feet beyond the Closed Area signs.

Special use permits are free but take one week to process. Not completing a special use permit is prohibited. For an application and more information email Melissa Robell at or call (580) 626-4794.

National Wildlife Refuge System Laws

The Endangered Species Act establishes protections for fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered; provides for adding species to and removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species, and for preparing and implementing plans for their recovery;...

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703-712) implements four international conservation treaties that the U.S. entered into with Canada in 1916, Mexico in 1936, Japan in 1972, and Russia in 1976. It is intended to ensure the sustainability of populations of all protected migratory...

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) provides that the Service examine the environmental impacts, incorporate environmental information, and use public participation in the planning and implementation of all actions; integrate NEPA with other planning requirements; prepare NEPA...

An aerial view of pelican island.

The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act provides authority, guidelines and directives for the Service to improve the National Wildlife Refuge System; administers a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and restoration of fish, wildlife and plant...

Spells out wildlife conservation as the fundamental mission of the Refuge System; requires comprehensive conservation planning to guide management of the Refuge System; directs the involvement of private citizens in land management decisions; and provides that compatible wildlife-dependent...