Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.
When do you need a permit to film in parks?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. 423 units make up the National Park System, and includes National Parks, National Monuments, National Preserves, National Battlefield Parks, and more.
What is commercial filming?
"Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.
Do I need a permit for still photography?
In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography only when:
*A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.
If I’m a social media influencer, do I need a permit?
Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.
How do I apply for a permit?
Email completed applications to COLM_PERMITS@nps.gov. Payment of the $100 application fee can be made with a credit card over the phone by calling 970-858-2823.
What permit application forms do I need for filming and photography activities?
What fees will I have to pay?
The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.
Permits issued for non-commercial filming may be subject to cost recovery charges, including an application fee, but a separate location fee will not be charged.
I received a filming permit before October 28, 2022, but I have not started filming yet. Are the terms of my permit going to change?
No. You may film consistent with the terms of the permit that has already issued.
Are there other permit requirements?
You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.
What about photography workshops?
If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a Commercial Use Authorization.
Use of aircraft and helicopters is restricted and must be approved in a case-by-case basis. Sensitive wildlife habitat, expectation of solitude in wilderness areas, and safety are our primary consideration with regard to over flight activities. Therefore, aerial filming is rarely allowed. Use of drones is strictly prohibited within the park's boundaries.
Potential permittees should be aware that about 14,000 acres within Colorado National Monument are Recommended Wilderness and are managed as federally designated Wilderness. Only educational filming is permitted within Wilderness areas.
Termination of Permit
All 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 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 damage to resources or facilities is threatened, or if there is a clear danger to public health or safety.
Sharing the Park
A filming or photography permit does not give exclusive rights to the permittee or allow the permittee to restrict visitors from any location; therefore sites which attract a large number of visitors should be avoided. Normal visitor use patterns will not be interrupted for longer than five minutes, and only as specified in the approved permit. Visitors will be able to observe filming activity.
Last updated: November 17, 2023