Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the National Park Service (NPS) retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent conflict among park visitors. Therefore, the NPS establishes guidelines for setting the time, place and manner (number of participants, use of facilities and type of equipment) for the events to occur.
By law, the NPS has established places in parks where First Amendment activities can be accommodated. These areas are visible to the general visiting public without interfering with the public’s enjoyment of the park.
Special Use Permits are issued for First Amendment activities, but there are no fees or costs, and no insurance is required for the activities. All requests for similar activities are treated equally. As long as permit criteria and requirements are met, no group wishing to assemble lawfully will be discriminated against or denied the right of assembly.
Small Group Exception: Under 36 CFR 2.51(b)(1) and 2.52 (b)(1) groups of 25 or fewer people may demonstrate, distribute or sell printed matter, or give away noncommercial, message-bearing, non-printed matter (CDs, DVDs, buttons, bumper stickers, or other items) in designated, available areas without obtaining a permit. Small groups may still apply for a permit in order to reserve their use of a particular area. In order to qualify for the small group exception, the group must assemble in a designated First Amendment location and may not be an extension of another group whose numbers together total more than 25. Please note, the use of a sound system, stages or platforms, and soliciting donations, does require a permit even if the group does not exceed 25 people. Please call the Commercial Services Office with any questions.
Permit Application Procedure
Please submit your application at least 10 days before the start of the proposed activity. Requests for a permit application may be made in person at park headquarters, via telephone, email or letter. The application form may be downloaded from the park website. Park contact information is:
Once an application has been received and processed, a Special Use Permit will be prepared and sent to you for signature. Upon receipt, please review, sign and return the permit to our office for the Superintendent’s signature. After the Superintendent signs the permit, a signed copy of the permit will be forwarded to you. The approved, signed permit copy must be in your possession at the time of the activity.
Types of First Amendment Activities
The areas available for public assemblies and the sale and distribution of printed materials have been identified in the Superintendent’s Compendium in Appendix C. The Superintendent’s Compendium is available on the park website at https://www.nps.gov/buff/learn/management/lawsandpolicies.htm or by calling the Commercial Services office, or any visitor contact station.
Terms & Conditions To maintain park natural and cultural resources and quality visitor experiences the following conditions and requirements apply to Special Use Permits for First Amendment activities:
Last updated: January 25, 2020