CUA Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA)?

A Commercial Use Authorization is a business permit with the National Park Service which authorizes an individual, group, company or other for profit entity to provide specific visitor services and operate within a National Park area.

What does the Federal law (PL 105-391, Section 418) require?

The law requires that CUAs:

  • Are accomplished in a manner consistent to the highest practicable degree with the preservation and conservation of park resources and values.
  • Are consistent with the purpose for which the Park was established.
  • Ensure compliance with all applicable management plans, park policies and regulations.
  • Establish conditions for the protection (safety) of visitors and appropriate visitor services.
  • Limit the liability of the United States Government.
  • Require payment of a reasonable fee for issuance of an authorization and recover associated management and administrative costs.

Do you expect the CUA process to change in the future?

Yes. The National Park Service is in the process of drafting final regulations, at the national level, that cover appropriate operations under the CUA process.

Do I or my company, group or organization need a CUA permit?

A CUA is required if you as an individual, organization or corporation provide any goods, activities, services, agreements, or other function for members, clients or the public which takes place at least in part of the National Park, uses Park resources and results in compensation, monetary gain, benefit or profit.

What constitutes a commercial tour or service?

A commercial tour or service consists of one or more persons traveling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced, or sold for leisure/recreational purposes by an organization that realizes financial gain through the provision of the service.

Are there limits on the number of CUA permits that can be issued?

Yes. In response to Public Law 105-391, section 418, the superintendent cannot issue more CUA permits than are consistent with the preservation and proper management of park resources and values. It may be necessary for the superintendent to establish limits on the number of private individuals, institutional use and commercial use. One tool is to limit the number of commercial operators. Other tools may include limiting use of all types by time period, area, number of trips, user days, party size or other parameters.

Is there a cost for the authorization?

Yes. Public Law 105-391, Section 418, requires the National Park Service (NPS) to collect a reasonable fee for commercial use authorizations (CUAs) at an amount at least sufficient to recover the NPS' costs in administering and managing the CUAs. The fee rates may be reviewed and revised annually in accordance with RM 48B guidelines. The fee for the 2017 CUA term will be the same as the previous term, and based upon the number of vessels, vehicles, captains, and drivers included on the authorization. Below is a rate schedule for your reference.

Fee Number of Vessels, Captains and Drivers
$250 1 to 4
$350 5 to 6
$450 7 or More

How do I apply for a CUA?

Application instructions and packets may be downloaded from the Park website.

Please read the application instructions and all attachments before applying for a CUA. Completed application packets must be mailed to the park. Emailed applications will no longer be accepted. All items listed on the Application Packet Checklist must be included in order to qualify for a CUA.

How may a CUA be denied, suspended, or revoked?

Authority to revoke an authorization is provided for via the signed statement on the authorization. Failure on the part of the CUA holder to abide by the provisions of the authorization is citable under 36 CFR Section 1.6(g) and Section 5.3 and may result in denial, suspension, or revocation. The policy on denial, suspension, and revocation can be found here.

Last updated: January 30, 2017

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