Commercial Use Authorizations (CUAs)

On This Page Navigation

 

The National Park Service requires specific authorizations for commercial businesses to operate in national parks, usually in the form of a Commercial Use Authorization.

 

2021 Commercial Vehicle Occupancy Standards

Based on CDC guidance, The Department of the Interior and National Park Service (NPS) have determined that the physical distancing standards outlined in the DOI COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan are not practicable on park transportation systems. The National Park Service (NPS) has recently issued new guidance requiring the lifting of social distancing measures on transportation systems.

Effective June 3, 2021, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will no longer require strict physical distancing standards on park transportation systems. Park transportation systems may return to full capacity operations as soon as practicable. While some practices that promote physical distancing may be appropriate to continue (such as designating an entry and exit door for vehicles with multiple doors), practices that limit capacity, such as closing alternate rows of seating or limiting occupancy, are not required.

Public Transit Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies maintaining six feet of physical distance from others who are not part of your household as a sound public health practice and while this remains accurate, the CDC recognizes that "distancing may be difficult to impossible on flights" and that "travel by bus, train, vessel, and other conveyances pose similar challenges." As a result, the CDC ordered and requires that masks be worn on transportation systems, however, physical distancing is not required.

All commercial operators are independently responsible for understanding and complying with the most current applicable laws, regulations, orders, ordinances and other requirements and for conducting their operations in a manner that is safe and protects the health of employees, customers and the public.

This guidance could change if COVID-19 conditions become less favorable. Operators are responsible for staying up-to-date on the latest guidance.

If you are a Road-Based Commercial Tour operator and would like to receive communication from the park about operational changes, please email us your business name, contact name, address, phone number, and email address.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirements listed below are currently in place for all Commercial Use Authorization holders applying for and operating under a Commercial Use Authorization in Yellowstone National Park.

  • A COVID-19 Operating Plan must be developed and submitted to the Concessions Management Office for review prior to operating in the park. Please contact the Concessions Management Office at yell_cua_admins@nps.gov for a COVID-19 Operating Plan template.
  • After the COVID-19 Operating Plan has been reviewed, the Concessions Management Office will provide an acknowledgement letter to the CUA applicant. All plans will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis.
  • The CUA holder is responsible for implementing their COVID-19 Operating Plan and taking appropriate actions to ensure their COVID-19 Operating Plan procedures are followed by employees and clients.
  • Operational conditions within the park are subject to change. This could include closures, changes to operating hours/dates, availability of facilities, and further modification of CUA activities.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email us or call the Concessions Management Office at 307-344-2320.

 

What is a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA)?

Public Law 105-391, Section 418, which was signed in 1998, provides for the issuance of Commercial Use Authorizations (CUAs) to a private person, corporation, or other entity to provide suitable commercial services for park area visitors. Commercial activities are generally prohibited in National Parks unless authorized by a CUA or concessions contract.

Services Not Permitted

These types of commercial services are prohibited in Yellowstone National Park. These services are not allowed through the Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) Program or authorized under any other permit in Yellowstone National Park:

  • Delivery or pick-up of any out-of-park rentals by a third party, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • RVs or other camper units

What Activities and Services are Authorized Through a CUA?

Yellowstone National Park currently issues activity-based CUAs for the following activities. Please select an activity-based CUA for a detailed operating plan.

All activity-based CUAs are issued for up to one year. The CUA operating year is from January 1 to December 31. A $300 application fee is required for each service category, due with the application.

 
A family pedals by some thermal features along a paved path on bicycles.

Guided Bicycle Tours

Authorizes road-based bicycle trips and front-country hiking on boardwalk areas and trails less than ½-mile from the road.

Silhouette of people taking photographs and watching through spotting scopes at a colorful sunset.

Guided Environmental Education Tours

Authorizes road-based vehicle tours in the park, non-instructional photography tours, and acting as a step-on guide.

A couple standing on snow at the base of an icy waterfall.

Guided Skiing and Snowshoeing

Authorizes interpretive nordic skiing, telemark skiing, or snowshoeing trips.

A woman with a large backpack carefully crosses a small suspension bridge.

Guided Overnight Backcountry Trips

Authorizes overnight backcountry camping with an appropriate backcountry permit.

Photographers stands next to a row of cameras set up on tripods.

Guided Painting and Photography

Authorizes road-based photography and painting workshops that includes in-depth photography and/or painting instruction.

A group of people stand near a small tour bus.

Road-based Tours

Traveling by vehicle on an itinerary that someone has packaged and sold for leisure purposes and provide no other services.

A motorboat crosses a large lake, creating a wake behind it.

Guided Motorized Boating

Authorizes guided touring or fishing trips in motorized boats on Yellowstone Lake and/or Lewis Lake.

A couple paddles a two-person kayak across a still lake.

Guided Non-motorized Boating

Authorizes guided touring using non-motorized boats in Yellowstone, Lewis, or Shoshone Lakes.

Two anglers stand in a river and cast their lines during an early morning sunrise.

Guided Stream and Shoreline Fishing

Authorizes guided walk and wade fishing trips in park streams and lakes. Float tube use in lakes is permitted with this CUA.

A photographer taking a portrait of a man.

Wedding and Portrait Photography

Authorizes wedding, engagement, family, school, and pet portrait photography. Annual and single-session CUAs options available.

 

Yellowstone National Park currently issues service-based CUAs for the following activities. Please select a service-based CUA for a detailed operating plan.

All service-based CUAs are issued for up to a two-year period. The CUA operating year is from January 1 to December 31. All service-based CUA activities require a $150 non-refundable application fee.

 
RVs and other vehicles parking along a street.

Towing and Automotive Services

Authorizes CUA holders to provide towing, tire repair, locksmith, and RV and RV appliance repair services.

The convergence of two rivers in a steep-sided river valley.

Water Access

Allows the CUA holder to access the Yellowstone River through NPS property.

 
North Entrance sign with mountains in the background

Apply for a CUA

Here is everything you need to know about submitting a CUA application.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The authorization is issued to an operator to permit the provision of suitable commercial services to park area visitors. The superintendent determines if an operator has the ability to satisfactorily provide visitor services and carry out the terms of the CUA.

The superintendent determines that the commercial services are “suitable”; that is they (a) will have minimal impact on park area’s resources and values; (b) are consistent with the purposes for which the park area was established; and, (c) are consistent with all applicable park area management plans, policies, and regulations.

The holder must agree to comply with all of the general and specific conditions described in the CUA conditions and operating plans. You should familiarize yourself with these documents before applying for a CUA.

All activity- and service-based CUAs are issued for up to one year. The CUA operating year is from January 1 to December 31.
Applications will be accepted beginning October 1st of the year prior to the operating year and will be accepted throughout the operating year. Please submit complete application packets 45 days before your first trip in the park.

All activity-based CUA activities require $300 application fee for each service category due with the application. This fee is not refundable. The initial $300 per service application fee will be credited toward the management fee paid at the end of that operating year.

The management fee is due at the end of the operating year and is based on a percentage of the operating year’s gross receipts. This fee must be paid to the park after the park has reviewed and approved the annual report, which is submitted by January 31st, after the operating year has ended.

Management fee is based on percentage of gross receipts ($300.00 application fee for the operating year acts as a credit towards the following):

  • Less than $250,000: 3% of gross receipts
  • Between $250,000 and $500,000: 4% of gross receipts in addition to the prior amount
  • Over $500,000: 5% of gross receipts in addition to the two prior amounts

“Gross receipts” means the total of all revenues received from services a CUA holder is authorized to provide within Yellowstone National Park.

The CUA holder is responsible for maintaining accounting records that demonstrate evidence of gross receipts and required fee payment. NPS may audit CUA holder financial reports at any time.

All service-based CUA activities require a $150 non-refundable application fee.

The CUA holder is responsible for maintaining accounting records that demonstrate evidence of gross receipts and required fee payment. NPS may audit CUA holder financial reports at any time.

National Park Service Policy requires the Superintendent to charge a reasonable fee for CUAs. The park retains such fees to help pay for the cost of the CUA program, including administration, evaluations, monitoring, and training.
Annual Financial Reports and Management Fee Calculation Forms, which cover the operating year and require reporting of gross receipts and visitors served for each month of that year, are due by January 31st following the end of the operating year. A separate Financial Report and Management Fee Calculation forms are required for each activity a CUA holder has a CUA for. Annual Financial Report and Management Fee Calculation forms will be available by October 1st of each operating year. The Concessions Management Office will review all Annual Report and Management Fee Calculation Fee Forms for accuracy and inform the CUA holder when payment of management fees can be made.
Commercial Use Authorization applicants and holders must make all payments for application fees and management fees through Pay.gov.
 

Resources

 
A group of visitors wearing helmets and riding horses across a field.

Resources for Commercial Guides

Download or review resources for anyone who may routinely work with visitors to Yellowstone National Park.

Sign stating that people in the area and expressing their own opinions.

First Amendment (FA)

Church services or demonstrations require a special use permit (non-fee).

A videographer looks through his viewfinder of the video camera to frame a scene.

Film, Photography, and Sound Recording

A permit is required for commercial filming, photography, and audio recording.

 

Contact Us

If you have any questions regarding the CUA application process or requirements, please contact the Business and Commercial Services Office at 307-344-2320 or yell_cua_admins@nps.gov.

Last updated: October 13, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

307-344-7381

Contact Us