Special Use Permits

Set in the rugged beauty of Tonto Basin, Tonto National Monument preserves cliff dwellings and other prehistoric archeological sites amid a rich and diverse Sonoran Desert environment. Most special events and activities held within Tonto National Monument require a Special Use Permit. These permits are issued and approved only after National Park Service staff determines that the activity will not cause degradation of the park's valuable resources, visitor experience, or the purpose for which the park was established.

Special Events

A Special Use Permit is required for activities that provide a benefit to an individual, group, or organization, rather than the public at large. These activities require some degree of management from the National Park Service if there is the potential for interference with visitor use, congestion of a highly visited area, or possible impact on park resources. Special event examples include: holiday services, filming/photographing, organized group events, scientific research, weddings, etc.

First Amendment Activities

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are constitutional rights. However, the courts have recognized that activities associated with the exercise of these rights may be reasonably regulated to protect park resources. The necessity of a permit to conduct First Amendment activities is determined by the group size.

  • A small group is defined as "25 people or less". A small group is not required to obtain a First Amendment Permit if they are located within a park designated First Amendment site and have no more than leaflets, booklets, and/or hand held signs.

A permit is required for any small group that:

  • Wants to hold a demonstration or distribute and/or sell printed matter somewhere outside a designated First Amendment area.
  • Wants to use equipment (i.e. tables, banners, platforms, etc.) even if it is within a designated area.
  • Is merely an extension of another group already availing itself of the 25 person maximum.
  • Wants to guarantee they will have priority for the use of a location, including the designated First Amendment areas.


A large group is defined as "more than 25 people" and is required to obtain a First Amendment Permit even if they are utilizing a park designated First Amendment site.

Some examples of special events that fall under First Amendment Rules:

  • Distribution and/or sale of printed matter
  • Religious services
  • Public demonstrations or assemblies, etc.

There are no permit fees associated with First Amendment permits.

Application for Special Use Permit - Long Form
Application for Special Use Permit - Short Form

Commercial Filming and Still Photography

When is a permit needed?

All commercial filming activities taking place within Tonto National Monument require a permit. Commercial filming includes capturing a moving image on film and video as well as sound recordings.

Still photographers require a permit only when:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. 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
  3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

How do I apply for a permit?

Permit applications are available through each park's administrative office or website. Contact information for parks can be found on their websites; visit Find a Park to locate the park where you would like to photograph. You should submit a completed application along with the application fee to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will help them process the submitted application in a timely manner.

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. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress 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 still photography fee schedule:

  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day

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.

Application for Commercial Photography - Short Form
Application for Commercial Photography - Long Form

Last updated: November 3, 2022

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