Film & Photography Permits

Three photographers photograph sunset over the Yukon River

NPS/Josh Spice

2/23/21 Update: Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve has received interim guidance for new filming requests. We are currently accepting and processing new filming and still photography permits.

Lands of the United States were set aside by Congress, Executive Order, or otherwise acquired in order to conserve and protect areas of untold beauty and grandeur, historical importance, and uniqueness for future generations. The tradition of capturing images of these special places started with explorers who traveled with paint and canvas or primitive photo apparatus. It was the sharing of these images that led to the designation of these areas as national parks and monuments. Visitors to national parks today continue to memorialize their visits through videos and photographs.

Filming

Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land

On January 22, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in Price v. Barr determining the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming under 54 USC 100905, 43 CFR Part 5, and 36 CRF Part 5.5 are unconstitutional. The National Park Service has issued interim guidance as of February 22, 2021, to manage filming activities. Under the interim guidance, filming activities may require a permit if they pose a threat to park resources or the visitor experience. The National Park Service intends to update regulations addressing filming activities that are consistent with the outcome of Price v. Barr. Once effective, those regulations will replace and supersede the interim guidance.

As regulations regarding commercial filming permits are being reassessed, those interested in commercial filming activities on land managed by the National Park Service are encouraged to contact the park directly for more information about filming in the park and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources.

Do I need a permit to film?

Under the interim guidance, the National Park Service is not distinguishing between types of filming, such as commercial, non-commercial, or news gathering. Low-impact filming activities will not require a special use permit, but non-low-impact filming may require a permit to consider its potential impacts on park resources and visitor activities.

All applicable laws and regulations governing activities and public use in parks still apply. Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, and other staff associated with commercial filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors still apply to filming activities even if no permit is needed for their activity. Check with the park staff for more information on closures, sensitive resources, and other safety tips. The use of drones for any reason is prohibited in all areas of National Park Service lands (as per 36 CFR 13.5).

Low-Impact Filming

'Low-impact filming’ is defined as outdoor filming activities in areas open to the public, except areas managed as wilderness (see below), involving five people or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras. Those participating in low-impact filming activities do not need a permit and are not required to contact the park in advance. If low-impact filmers have questions about areas where they want to film, they should contact the park directly.

All applicable laws and regulations governing activities and public use in parks still apply. Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, news and other staff associated with filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors still apply to filming activities even if no permit is needed for their activity. Check with the park staff for more information on closures, sensitive resources, and other safety tips.

Non-Low-Impact Filming

Filming activities that do not meet the description of low-impact filming requires at least ten days advance notice to the National Park Service by contacting the park directly in writing. The park’s superintendent will determine whether the filming activity will require a special use permit for filming. Based on the information provided, a permit may be required to:

  • maintain public health and safety;

  • protect environmental or scenic values;

  • protect natural or cultural resources;

  • allow for equitable allocation or use of facilities; or

  • avoid conflict with subsistence users.

The decision to require a permit rests with the park superintendent based on the threat to park resources, subsistence uses or the visitor experience.

Contact the park directly if unsure whether or not a filming activity is considered low-impact or will require a permit.

 
Map depicting the wilderness area of Gates of the Arctic
Click the map to view larger

Filming in Wilderness Areas

Much of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is Congressionally-designated as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964. In addition, many lands that are not currently in designated wilderness are eligible for wilderness designation in the future (see map). These areas have additional laws and policies to preserve their wilderness character for future generations. Filming activities in wilderness areas must follow all applicable laws and regulations that govern wilderness areas in the park, including prohibitions on structures, installations, motor vehicles, mechanical transport, motorized equipment, motorboats, and helicopter landings.

Special use Permits for filming are required for all filming activities in wilderness areas, except casual filming by visitors, no matter the group size or equipment used.

Are filmers still required to pay fees to film in parks?

As of January 22, 2021, and under the interim guidance, the National Park Service is no longer collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming.

Still Photography

When is a permit needed?

Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity.

Still photographers require a permit only when:

  • the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or

  • the activity uses model(s)*, sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  • model: a person or object that serves as the subject for filming or still photography for the purposes of promoting sales 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.
  • a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

Still Photography Workshops & Tours

Exemptions

The following cases do not require a photography permit:

  • Visitors filming or taking pictures intended for their personal use and enjoyment.

What fees will I have to pay?

The National Park Service will collect:
  1. A non-refundable $100 cost recovery charge for still photography activities only. 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.
  2. A location fee. Effective May 15, 2006, the Department of the Interior required the National Park Service to collect a fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following fee schedule for still photography and audio recordings:
  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day

Restrictions

Drone Use: Launching, landing, or operating of drones (i.e., unmanned aircraft) from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.

How to Apply

1. Please email the park for a Special Use Permit application.

2. A non-refundable application and administrative fee of $100 is required. Payment may be made in the form of a cashier’s check or money order payable to “National Park Service” and mailed to:

National Park Service
Fairbanks Administrative Center
4175 Geist Rd
Fairbanks, AK 99709

The application packet must include:

  • Certificate of General Liability insurance issued by an insurance company operating in the United States
  • Detailed production schedule and proposed locations
  • Detailed cast & crew list including name and role
  • Detailed equipment list including model of equipment

Application Deadlines

For simple permit requests, applications must be received at least two weeks prior to proposed start date.
For more complex requests, applications must be received six weeks in advance.

Insurance & Performance Bond Requirement

Proof of insurance may be required and documentation must carry a commercial liability (minimum of $1 million) issued by a U.S. company. Insurance certificate must identify the production company by name and business address. If permittee uses a different name than listed on insurance policy, the relationship between insured company and permittee's company must be identified. The United States of America will be named "additional insured" on the insurance certificate. The address should also include the following: National Park Service, Fairbanks Administrative Center, 4175 Geist Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709.

For still photography, the minimum generally acceptable amount of liability insurance is $1 million each occurrence. Smaller, low-risk projects may be eligible for a reduction to $500,000. Contact our office for details. The certificate should be generated by the insurance company. We will accept a faxed copy of the certificate until your insurance company can mail us the original.

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 the NPS for cleanup, 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 the costs of cleanup, repair, or rehabilitation are deducted.

For More Information

Permit Coordinator
National Park Service
Fairbanks Administrative Center
4175 Geist Road, Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-3420
907-457-5752
Email us.
 
Looking for a different kind of use permit? See the options below.
  • Research Permits
  • Special Use Permits
    1. Other Special Use Permits - a catch-all category including but not limited to activities such as special assemblies, athletic events or races, temporary access requests, first amendment activities, groups with 12 or more participants, etc.

Last updated: April 8, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

101 Dunkel St
Suite 110

Fairbanks , AK 99701

Phone:

907-459-3730

Contact Us

Stay Connected