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

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.

What activities are authorized in Yellowstone?

All commercial activity in the park must be permitted by the National Park Service (NPS). Learn which activities are eligible for a CUA in Yellowstone National Park.

What are the general criteria for the issuance of a CUA?

The authorization is issued to a qualified operator to permit the provision of suitable commercial services to park area visitors. A qualified operator is an organization that the superintendent determines 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 activity-specific operating plan. You should familiarize yourself with these documents before applying for a CUA.

For what length of time is a CUA issued?

CUAs are issued for a one-year period. The operating year is from January 1 to December 31.

When is the application period?

Applications are accepted on a year-round basis. Please submit applications 45 days before your first trip in the park.

What are the fees for a CUA?

A $300 application fee for each service category is due with the application. This fee is not refundable. The initial $300 per service fee will be credited toward the market rate fee, which is based on percentage of gross receipts.

The market rate fee, based on a percentage of the previous year’s gross receipts, must be paid to the park by January 31 of each year with the year-end financial statement.


Market Rate Fee based on percentage of gross receipts
($300.00 application fee 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 offered within Yellowstone National Park. Revenue collected that is passed directly through to in-park concessioners to purchase visitor services such as lodging, meals, or concessioner-provided activities may be deducted when calculating the market rate fee. Revenue for services conducted outside Yellowstone is not included in the gross receipts amount when calculating the assessed fee. Usually services outside Yellowstone are prorated based on time. For example for operators who hold CUAs with both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks should allocate gross receipts to each park according to the percentage of the total trip time spent in each park.

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

Why does the park charge a fee for a CUA?

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.

When are Annual Financial Reports and fees due?

Annual Financial Reports, which cover the operating year and require reporting of gross receipts and visitors served for each month of that year, are due on January 31 of each year. At that time, the balance of the management fee, based on the gross receipts reported in the Annual Financial Report, is due.

What are the insurance requirements?

The CUA holder must maintain comprehensive general liability coverage in the amount of $500,000 minimum per occurrence. The CUA holder must maintain commercial automobile liability coverage for all owned, non-owned, and hired vehicles used by the licensee that is driven into the park that carry passengers or equipment. The policy shall be underwritten by a United States company and must name the United States of America as an additional insured.

Single Purpose Activities (includes day and overnight hiking, photography and art classes, bicycling, and group camping) $500,000
Vehicle Insurance
(bodily injury and property damage)
Minimum per Occurrence Liability Limits*
Up to 6 passengers $1,000,000
6 - 15 passengers $1,500,000
16 – 25 passengers $3,000,000
26+ passengers $5,000,000

What are the reporting requirements?

All required documentation must be submitted for the authorization to remain active.

Document Due
Monthly Use Reports 4th of each month
Annual Financial Report (AFR) January 31 following the operating year
Guides List April 1 or before operation begins
Insurance Certificate As insurance expires/renews

What are Monthly Use Reports and when are they due?

CUA holders are required to submit monthly use reports by the 4th of each month. Reports request the number of trips taken and the number of visitors served, and but may also include other relevant trip information such as where trips took place, etc. This information assists us with our monitoring efforts. If you have no use in a particular month, no monthly use form is required.

How long does it take to obtain a CUA?

A minimum of 45 days is required for issuance of a CUA. Delays will occur if application materials are not submitted accurately or completely, or if authorizations needing operator signature are not returned promptly.

How do I submit an application?

Review all of the checklist items below. Once you have all of the required documentation, you can submit either electronically or by mail. Scan and email your application package to The application will not be processed until application fee is received. Or mail your application package and check to:

Concessions Management Office
Attn: CUA Program
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Please email an electronic copy of the guides list excel file to

Contact the Concessions Management Office at:
(307) 344-2271 Office

What happens once I submit an application?

  1. Once we have reviewed your application and questions you will receive confirmation that your CUA has been tentatively approved. Once we have received all required documents, we will send you a CUA authorization form for your signature.
  2. You will then need to sign and return the CUA authorization form for final approval.
  3. You are not authorized to begin providing commercial services in the Park until your receive the CUA that has been signed by the Superintendent, or delegated official, and your requested guide cards have been received.
  4. Monthly Use Reports will be due by the 4th of each month you operate. Please submit these electronically to
  5. You will need to submit annual requirements, which includes the annual fee, each year, as identified in the Annual Checklist below.


Application Checklist:

  • Applications must be completed by new operators and each year by current operators.
  • Complete and sign the CUA Application form. Submit with the application package.
  • Complete the Application Questions. (Only new operators or current CUA holders adding additional services)
  • Instruct your insurance company to send an Insurance Certificate naming the United States of America as an additional insured to the Concessions Management Office of Yellowstone National Park by email or hardcopy. It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure that the park receives its current insurance information.
  • Submit a statement explaining your policy regarding the use of "Acknowledgement of Risk" forms. Are you using the risk form provided by Yellowstone National Park, a company specific risk form, or is no form used? If you’re using a form other than the one provided by Yellowstone please include a copy of your form with the application package. See condition #3 in the Special Park Conditions in the application.
  • Submit a company firearm policy that adheres to condition #5 in the CUA Special Park Conditions in the application.
  • Enclose an advertising brochure and/or website address with a schedule of planned trips to Yellowstone National Park. Websites must specifically state that the business is an “Authorized Permittee of the Yellowstone National Park.”
  • Complete the Guides List, including expiration dates of First Aid and CPR certification using the attached excel file and submit the electronic guides list via email. Do not send CPR cards or photocopies of CPR cards (these should be kept for your records). Guide cards will be sent to CUA holder when all required documents have been received. Additions or changes to the guides list must be emailed to the Concessions Management Office.
  • Include a payment for the $300.00 application fee per service with the application package.
  1. Include a check made out to Yellowstone National Park OR
  2. If you already have a CUA go on to make your application fee payment electronically. Please send a confirmation to the Concessions Management Office by email or with your application packet.

Annual Checklist:

  • Annual checklist items apply to all operators, including applicants and current CUA holders.
  • Submit your Annual Financial Report for the previous year by January 31.
  • Submit the balance of the management fee by January 31. The Application fee will be deducted from the market rate fee. Operators grossing $10,000 or less will not generate enough revenue to incur annual fees beyond the $300 minimum (10,000x3%=300).
  • Provide an updated guides list by April 1 and as changes occur.
  • Ensure that your insurance company has provided the park with a current certificate of insurance.
  • Provide the park with new advertising materials as they are developed.

Last updated: November 16, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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