The Forest Service “special use” regulations establish a process to determine if a particular request will entail the need for a permit. The process begins a meeting with the local Forest Service Office where the activity will take place.
An electronic directory of Forest Service offices by name and state can be found here.
A staff member will discuss your proposal, potential land use conflicts, application procedures and qualifications, probable time frames, fees, bonding requirements, additional coordination with other agencies, environmental reports, and field reviews.
It is entirely possible that as a result of this meeting, the Forest Service official will determine that you will not need a permit. The regulation (pertinent sections found below this summary) provides that a special use authorization is not needed if “(1) The proposed use will have such nominal effects on National Forest System lands, resources, or programs that it is not necessary to establish terms and conditions in a special use authorization to protect National Forest System lands and resources or to avoid conflict with National Forest System programs or operations; (2) The proposed use is regulated by a State agency or another Federal agency in a manner that is adequate to protect National Forest System lands and resources and to avoid conflict with National Forest System programs or operations.”
The Ornithological Council strongly recommends that if you are told that a special use authorization is not needed, that you request a letter on Forest Service letterhead confirming that understanding. Otherwise, you will have no proof that you complied with the law. Carry that letter with you when you are working on Forest Service property.
Should you need a special use authorization, the Forest Service official will provide you with a permit application.
Complete and submit the application form, including supporting documents, to the local Forest Service office. An incomplete proposal could delay the processing.
Information regarding permit fees can be found here.
Regulations, policy, and directives regarding Forest Service Special Use Permits.