2/23/21 Update: Kobuk Valley National Park 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.
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’ 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.
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:
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.
Filming in Wilderness Areas
Much of Kobuk Valley National Park 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.
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 Photography Workshops & Tours
The following cases do not require a photography permit:
What fees will I have to pay?The National Park Service will collect:
RestrictionsDrone 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.
National Park Service
PO Box 1029
Kotzebue, AK 99752
The application packet must include:
Application DeadlinesFor 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 RequirementProof 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, PO Box 1029, Kotzebue, AK 99752.
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 InformationPermit Coordinator
National Park Service
PO Box 1029
Kotzebue, AK 99752
Looking for a different kind of use permit? See the options below.
Last updated: April 8, 2021