In contrast to the BLM permit requirements that I discussed earlier, the USFS has a very clear, concise, and not to mention user friendly, system in place. (Quotes below are from the downloadable .doc titled “Non-Commercial Group Use FAQ”).
The need for a “non-commercial group use permit” has one simple criteria:
Under the regulation, a “group use” is an activity that involves a group of 75 or more people, either as participants or spectators. “Noncommercial” is any use or activity where an entry or participation fee is not charged, and the primary purpose is not the sale of a goods or service. Some examples of noncommercial group uses are weddings, church services, endurance rides, regattas, camping trips, hikes, music festivals, rallies, graduations, and races.
That’s it. 75 people.
And further, it’s an easier permit to apply for . The application can be submitted up to 72 hours in advance of the event. The BLM, I can remind you, wants 6 months of advance notice. The application must be reviewed by a USFS agent within 48 hours after receiving it. If it does not get reviewed within that time frame, then the application is considered granted. If your permit gets rejected for some reason, your are not left searching the Four Winds to find out why. Instead:
Equally important, an authorized officer has to explain to the applicant in writing the reasons for the denial. There has to be an adequate factual basis for the denial, and a record has to be developed to support the reasons for the denial. If an application is denied, and an alternative time, place, or manner will allow the applicant to meet all the evaluation criteria, the authorized officer will offer that alternative.
Why the numerical standard of 75?
While any numerical threshold is arbitrary in that 25 people could have more impact than 75, depending on the type of activity and the characteristics of the site, a numerical threshold is the fairest and most objective standard for applicability of the rule. In addition, groups with 75 or more people tend to have a greater impact on National Forest System lands than smaller groups.
Does the USFS non-commercial permit require proof of insurance?
No. Noncommercial group uses involve or potentially involve First Amendment activities. Requiring bonding or insurance as a precondition to the issuance of a permit for expressive conduct could be construed as an undue burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights. In other words, requiring an applicant to obtain bonding or insurance before a permit is issued could be seen as putting a price tag on speech in violation of the United States Constitution.
What is stopping the BLM from adopting a similar non-commercial permit policy? It seems that it would solve the issue for both sides. Make a permit that is easy to get, and easy to process. Win-Win.
The best part about the USFS permit requirements? It makes no discrimination against competition. The USFS is not out to stop individuals or groups from racing. In fact, scroll up and re-read the first paragraph I quoted. Wait, never mind, I will just re-quote the relevant text,
“Some examples of noncommercial group uses are weddings, church services, endurance rides, regattas, camping trips, hikes, music festivals, rallies, graduations, and races.
No garbage about contesting established records and nothing about 2 or more individuals who have the nerve to compete. The distinction for the USFS is between commercial and non-commercial. The element of competition is irrelevant to the nature of what permit you may need.
The clear language eliminates all the ambiguity the BLM seems intent on perpetuating. With the above requirements there is little question as to whether or not your event (if it is on USFS land) will need a permit.
If only the BLM could be as sensible.