Special Use Permit - Commercial Filming
The National Park Service (NPS) is mandated to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations" (16 U.S.C. 1). For this purpose the Department of the Interior developed RM-53, which governs filming, photography, and sound recordings in National Parks. Under these guidelines NPS units have the authority and responsibility to manage, permit, and/or deny filming, photography, and sound recordings in ways consistent with park management and mission.
It is the policy of the NPS to allow commercial photography, still photography, filming, and sound recordings to the fullest extent possible while providing for the protection of park resources and ensuring the enjoyment of those resources by park visitors.
Permit Application Procedure
Requests for a permit application may be made in person at the Harkers Island Visitor Center, via telephone, email, or letter. The application form may be downloaded from the Special Use Permits webpage. A completed application and the non-refundable application fee are required before an application can be processed. Park contact information is:
The information on the application will be used by NPS staff to evaluate the impact of the proposed activity on park resources and visitors. Allow at least two weeks (10 business days) for processing. Requests which involve multiple locations, complex logistics or coordination with other visitor activities will require a minimum of 15 working days to process. Projects which require environmental or cultural resource evaluation must be submitted not less than 30 days before the start of proposed activities. Applications are processed in the order in which they are received.
Applications will be returned to the applicant if submitted incomplete, cannot be approved as submitted, or are received without payment or without a social security or Federal Tax Identification Number. This greatly extends the time required to process your permit.
A permit is required for any filming or photography when the activity:
For purposes of definition, "filming" or "film-making" is commercial still photography, motion picture photography, videotaping, or sound recording. Documentaries, travelogues, feature stories, and similar types of filming require a permit if they meet one or more of the above criteria.Commercial videographers, cinematographers, or sound recording crews of up to two people with only minimal equipment (i.e. a camera and a tripod) working in areas open to the public are required to obtain a commercial filming permit and are subject to appropriate permit terms and conditions and cost recovery charges but are not subject to location fees.
News channels are considered a commercial venture and require a permit. News media crews--when not covering a breaking news event, but shooting human interest, staged events, or other topics--are required to obtain a permit. A "breaking news event" is defined as an event that cannot be covered at any other time or location.
A permit is not required for:
Cost Recovery and Fees
The authority for the National Park Service to recover and retain costs associated with managing special park uses is found at 16 U.S.C. 3a, 16 U.S.C. 460l-6d, and 31 U.S.C. 9701. Charges established for a Special Park Use under this authority are intended to recover costs associated with managing that activity and not to generate revenue beyond actual cost.
Application Cost: Must be submitted at the time of the initial application. This is a non-refundable payment.
Administration Cost: Payable when the permit is approved and prior to beginning the event. This is a non-refundable payment.
Federal procedures (31 USC 7701) requires your Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number on the back of all checks accepted for deposit. You must supply your Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number in order for your check to be accepted and your application to be processed.
Certain activities may trigger the need for the permittee to post a refundable damage bond. The amount of the bond will be equivalent to the estimated cost to NPS for clean up, repair, or rehabilitation of resources or facilities that could potentially be impacted by the permit activities. At the conclusion of the permit, the bond will be returned to the permittee after costs of clean up repair or rehabilitation are deducted.
Liability insurance protects the government from negligent actions by the permittee. Insurance in an amount sufficient to protect the interests of the United States may be required as a condition of the permit. A high risk activity will always require insurance. If insurance is required, proof of liability insurance issued by a United States company must be submitted prior to permit approval and must meet the following guidelines:
Permit Application Denial
A permit application may be denied if there is a potential that:
Restrictions and Conditions will be enumerated in the permit. The following activities are restricted and must be approved on a case by case basis:
Permit activities may be restricted based on weather or seasonal conditions (fire danger, standing water after rain, nesting season, etc.). Additional closures, use limits, and/or restricted activities are listed in the Superintendent's Compendium.
Termination of Permit
All filming or photography permits issued by the National Park Service are "revocable" on 24 hours notice or WITHOUT NOTICE if the terms of the permit are violated. Deliberate infractions of the terms of the filming permit or the deliberate making of false or misleading statements concerning intended actions in order to obtain a permit are causes for immediate termination of the permit and cause for possible prosecution. Permits will be revoked if there are threats of damage to resources or facilities or if there is a clear danger to public health or safety.
Standard Permit Conditions
To maintain park natural and cultural resources and quality visitor experiences, the following standard permit conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:
CONDITIONS OF THIS PERMIT