Some commercial, recreational and research activities are allowed on national wildlife refuges only with a special use permit issued by the local office, and are subject to specific conditions and fees. This permit requirement is meant to ensure that all activities at the federal site are compatible with the refuge’s Congressionally mandated wildlife conservation goals.
Special use permits may limit the scope, timing and location of the activity, as determined by the refuge where the activity would take place.
Activities Subject to Special Use Permits
- Agricultural activities (haying and grazing, 50 CFR 29.1 and 29.2).
- Beneficial management tools used to provide the best habitat possible on some refuges (50 CFR 30.11, 31.14, 31.16, and 36.41).
- Special events, group visits, and other one-time events (50 CFR 25.41, 25.61, 26.36, and 36.41).
- Recreational visitor service operations (50 CFR 25.41, 25.61, and 36.41).
- Guiding for fishing, hunting, wildlife education, and interpretation (50 CFR 25.41 and 36.41).
- Commercial filming (43 CFR 5, 50 CFR 27.71) and other commercial activities (50 CFR 29.1 and 36.41).
- Building and using cabins to support subsistence or commercial activities (in Alaska) (50 CFR 26.35 and 36.41).
- Research, inventory and monitoring, and other noncommercial activities (50 CFR 26.36 and 36.41).
Apply for a Special Use Permit
The National Wildlife Refuge System has four Special Use Permit (SUP) Applications to enable the public to engage in permitted activities on a national wildlife refuge.
These forms are available here in a fillable format. You can also obtain these forms and more detailed instructions from the national wildlife refuge office where the activity would take place or on the refuge’s website. To find a refuge website or contact information go here.
Prospective permit holders may fill out the corresponding application, print it, sign it, and return it to the refuge for processing. The permit is not valid until approved and signed by a refuge official.
Commercial Activities Special Use Permit Application
(FWS Form 3-1383-C) for:
- Commercial activities such as guiding hunters, anglers or other outdoor users
- Commercial filming (audio, video, and photographic products of a monetary value)
- Agriculture (haying, grazing, crop planting, logging, and other agricultural products)
- Cabins (see also the General Special Use Application and Permit described below)
- For cabin and camping permits please visit Recreation.gov.
Research and Monitoring Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-R) for:
- Research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations
General Activity Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-G) for:
- Miscellaneous events (fishing tournaments, one-time events, other special events)
- Cabins/subsistence cabins (depending on the information use requirement, you may need the commercial form)
- Education activity
- Other (any activity not mentioned above)
The activities listed here are not necessarily conducted on every refuge. Contact the refuge manager to ask if a proposed use is appropriate or compatible at a particular refuge.
Oil and Gas Operations Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-2469) for operations associated with non-federal oil and gas rights and may only be conducted by operators who have demonstrated a bona fide property right to conduct the following types of activities:
- Temporary activities such as reconnaissance surveys
- Geophysical Exploration
- Drilling (e.g., accessing site, mobilizing equipment, building roads or grading wellpad)
- Production (e.g., operation of oil and gas well or compressor station, transportation of product off refuge)
- Plugging and abandoning well and site reclamation
More information on oil and gas exploration and development.
For information about other USFWS wildlife-related permit visit our ePermit site.