Part 251 Précis
Code of Federal Regulations
Revised as of July 1, 2012
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
TITLE 36–Parks, Forests, and Public Property
Department Of Agriculture
PART 251–Land Uses
Subpart B–Special Uses
Authority: 16 U.S.C. 472, 497b, 551, 1134, 3210; 30 U.S.C. 185; 43 U.S.C. 1740, 1761-1771.
Source: 45 FR 38327, June 6, 1980, unless otherwise noted.
Sec. 251.50 Scope.
(a) All uses of National Forest System lands, improvements, and resources, except those authorized by the regulations governing sharing use of roads (Sec. 212.9); grazing and livestock use (part 222); the sale and disposal of timber and special forest products, such as greens, mushrooms, and medicinal plants (part 223); and minerals (part 228) are designated “special uses.” Before conducting a special use, individuals or entities must submit a proposal to the authorized officer and must obtain a special use authorization from the authorized officer, unless that requirement is waived by paragraphs (c) through (e)(3) of this section.
(b) Nothing in this section prohibits the temporary occupancy of National Forest System lands without a special use authorization when necessary for the protection of life and property in emergencies, if a special use authorization is applied for and obtained at the earliest opportunity, unless waived pursuant to paragraphs (c) through (e)(3) of this section. The authorized officer may, pursuant to Sec. 251.56 of this subpart, impose in that authorization such terms and conditions as are deemed necessary or appropriate and may require changes to the temporary occupancy to conform to those terms and conditions. Those temporarily occupying National Forest System lands without a special use authorization assume liability, and must indemnify the United States, for all injury, loss, or damage arising in connection with the temporary
(c) A special use authorization is not required for noncommercial recreational activities, such as camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and horseback riding, or for noncommercial activities involving the expression of views, such as assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, and parades, unless:
(1) The proposed use is a noncommercial group use as defined in Sec. 251.51 of this subpart;
(2) The proposed use is still photography as defined in Sec. 251.51 of this subpart; or
Sec. 251.51 Definitions.
[Only the words relevant to the RFOLL are listed here]
Applicant–any individual or entity that applies for a special use authorization.
Authorized officer–any employee of the Forest Service to whom has been delegated the authority to perform the duties described in this part.
Chief–the Chief of the Forest Service.
Commercial use or activity–any use or activity on National Forest System lands
(a) where an entry or participation fee is charged, or
(b) where the primary purpose is the sale of a good or service, and in either case, regardless of whether the use or activity is intended to produce a profit.
Group use–an activity conducted on National Forest System lands that involves a group of 75 or more people, either as participants or spectators.
Holder–any applicant who has received a special use authorization.
National Forest System land–all lands, waters, or interests therein administered by the Forest Service.
Noncommercial use or activity–any use or activity that does not involve a commercial use or activity as defined in this section.
Permit–a special use authorization which provides permission, without conveying an interest in land, to occupy and use National Forest System land or facilities for specified purposes, and which is both revocable and terminable.
Revocation–the cessation of a special use authorization by action of an authorized officer before the end of the specified period of occupancy or use for reasons set forth in Sec. 251.60(a)(1)(i), (a)(2)(i), (g), and (h) of this subpart.
Secretary–the Secretary of Agriculture.
Special use authorization–a permit, term permit, lease, or easement which allows occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of National Forest System land.
Still photography–use of still photographic equipment on National Forest System lands that takes place at a location where members of the public generally are not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely, or uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.
Suspension–a temporary revocation of a special use authorization.
Termination–the cessation of a special use authorization by operation of law or by operation of a fixed or agreed-upon condition, event, or time as specified in an authorization without the necessity for any decision or action by the authorized officer; for example, expiration of the authorized term or transfer of the authorized improvement to another party.
Sec. 251.52 Delegation of authority.
Special use authorizations shall be issued, granted, amended, renewed, suspended, terminated, or revoked by the Chief, or through delegation, by the Regional Forester, Forest Supervisor, District Ranger or other forest officer, and shall be in such form and contain such terms, stipulations, conditions, and agreements as may be required by the regulations of the Secretary and the instructions of the Chief (7 CFR 2.60; 36 CFR part 200, subpart B).
Sec. 251.53 Authorities.
Subject to any limitations contained in applicable statutes, the Chief of the Forest Service, or other Agency official to whom such authority is delegated, may issue special use authorizations for National Forest System land under the authorities cited and for the types of use specified in this section as follows:
(a) Permits governing occupancy and use, including group events and distribution of noncommercial printed materials, under the act of June 4, 1897, 30 Stat. 35 (16 U.S.C. 551);
[Item (b) to (n) all deal with commercial situations]
Sec. 251.54 Proposal and application requirements and procedures.
(a) Early notice. When an individual or entity proposes to occupy and use National Forest System lands, the proponent is required to contact the Forest Service office(s) responsible for the management of the affected land as early as possible in advance of the proposed use.
(b) Filing proposals. Proposals for special uses must be filed in writing with or presented orally to the District Ranger or Forest Supervisor having jurisdiction over the affected land (Sec. 200.2 of this chapter), except as follows:
(c) Rights of proponents. A proposal to obtain a special use authorization does not grant any right or privilege to use National Forest System lands. Rights or privileges to occupy and use National Forest System lands under this subpart are conveyed only through issuance of a special use authorization.
(d) Proposal content–
(1) Proponent identification. Any proponent for a special use authorization must provide the proponent’s name and mailing address, and, if the proponent is not an individual, the name and address of the proponent’s agent who is authorized to receive notice of actions pertaining to the proposal.
(2) Required information—
(i) Noncommercial group uses.
Paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(5) of this section do not apply to proposals for noncommercial group uses. A proponent for noncommercial group uses shall provide the following:
(A) A description of the proposed activity;
(B) The location and a description of the National Forest System lands and facilities the proponent would like to use;
(C) The estimated number of participants and spectators;
(D) The starting and ending time and date of the proposed activity; and
(E) The name of the person or persons 21 years of age or older who will sign/ a special use authorization on behalf of the proponent.
(g) Application processing and response—
(1) Acceptance of applications. Except for proposals for noncommercial group uses, if a request does not meet the criteria of both screening processes or is subsequently denied, the proponent must be notified with a written explanation of the rejection or denial and any written proposal returned to the proponent. If a request for a proposed use meets the criteria of both the initial and second-level screening processes as described in paragraph (e) of this section, the authorized officer shall notify the proponent that the agency is prepared to accept a written formal application for a special use authorization and shall, as appropriate or necessary, provide the proponent guidance and information of the type described in paragraphs (e)(3)(i) through (e)(3)(viii) of this section.
(2) Processing applications.
(i) Upon acceptance of an application for a special use authorization other than a planning permit, the authorized officer shall evaluate the proposed use for the requested site, including effects on the environment. The authorized officer may request such additional information as necessary to obtain a full description of the proposed use and its effects.
(ii) Federal, State, and local government agencies and the public shall receive adequate notice and an opportunity to comment upon a special use proposal accepted as a formal application in accordance with Forest Service NEPA procedures.
(iii) The authorized officer shall give due deference to the findings of another agency such as a Public Utility Commission, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, or the Interstate Commerce Commission in lieu of another detailed finding. If this information is already on file with the Forest Service, it need not be refiled, if reference is made to the previous filing date, place, and case number.
(iv) Applications for noncommercial group uses must be received at least 72 hours in advance of the proposed activity. Applications for noncommercial group uses shall be processed in order of receipt, and the use of a particular area shall be allocated in order of receipt of fully executed applications, subject to any relevant limitations set forth in this section.
(v) For applications for planning permits, including those issued for a major development as described in paragraph (f)(3) of this section, the authorized officer shall assess only the applicant’s financial and technical qualifications and determine compliance with other applicable laws, regulations, and orders. Planning permits may be categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement pursuant to Forest Service Handbook 1909.15 (36 CFR 200.4).
(3) Response to applications for noncommercial group uses.
(i) All applications for noncommercial group uses shall be deemed granted and an authorization shall be issued for those uses pursuant to the determination as set forth below, unless applications are denied within 48 hours of receipt. Where an application for a noncommercial group use has been granted or is deemed to have been granted and an authorization has been issued under this paragraph, an authorized officer may revoke that authorization only as provided under Sec. 251.60(a)(1)(i).
(ii) An authorized officer shall grant an application for a special use authorization for a noncommercial group use upon a determination that:
(A) Authorization of the proposed activity is not prohibited by the rules at 36 CFR part 261, subpart B, or by Federal, State, or local law unrelated to the content of expressive activity;
(B) Authorization of the proposed activity is consistent or can be made consistent with the standards and guidelines in the applicable forest land and resource management plan required under the National Forest Management Act and 36 CFR part 219;
(C) The proposed activity does not materially impact the characteristics or functions of the environmentally sensitive resources or lands identified in Forest Service Handbook 1909.15, chapter 30;
(D) The proposed activity will not delay, halt, or prevent administrative use of an area by the Forest Service or other scheduled or existing uses or activities on National Forest System lands, including but not limited to uses and activities authorized under parts 222, 223, 228, and 251 of this chapter;
(E) The proposed activity does not violate State and local public health laws and regulations as applied to the proposed site. Issues addressed by State and local public health laws and regulations as applied to the proposed site include but are not limited to:
(1) The sufficiency of sanitation facilities;
(2) The sufficiency of waste-disposal facilities;
(3) The availability of sufficient potable drinking water;
(4) The risk of disease from the physical characteristics of the proposed site or natural conditions associated with the proposed site; and
(5) The risk of contamination of the water supply;
(F) The proposed activity will not pose a substantial danger to public safety. Considerations of public safety must not include concerns about possible reaction to the users’ identity or beliefs from non- members of the group that is seeking an authorization and shall be limited to the following:
(G) The proposed activity does not involve military or paramilitary training or exercises by private organizations or individuals, unless such training or exercises are federally funded; and
(H) A person or persons 21 years of age or older have been designated to sign and do sign a special use authorization on behalf of the applicant.
(iii) If an authorized officer denies an application because it does not meet the criteria in paragraphs (g)(3)(ii)(A) through (g)(3)(ii)(H) of this section, the authorized officer shall notify the applicant in writing of the reasons for the denial. If an alternative time, place, or manner will allow the applicant to meet the eight evaluation criteria, an authorized officer shall offer that alternative. If an application is denied solely under paragraph (g)(3)(ii)(C) of this section and all alternatives suggested are unacceptable to the applicant, the authorized officer shall offer to have completed the requisite environmental and other analyses for the requested site. A decision to grant or deny the application for which an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement is prepared is subject to the notice and appeal procedures at 36 CFR part 215 and shall be made within 48 hours after the decision becomes final under that appeal process. A denial of an application under paragraphs (g)(3)(ii)(A) through (g)(3)(ii)(H) [which apply only to commercial activities] of this section constitutes final agency action and is immediately subject to judicial review.
(4) Response to all other applications. Based on evaluation of the information provided by the applicant and other relevant information such as environmental findings, the authorized officer shall decide whether to approve the proposed use, approve the proposed use with modifications, or deny the proposed use. A group of applications for similar uses having minor environmental impacts may be evaluated with one analysis and approved in one decision.
(5) Authorization of a special use. Upon a decision to approve a special use or a group of similar special uses, the authorized officer may issue one or more special use authorizations as defined in Sec. 251.51 of this subpart.
[Items (d)(3) through (d)(5) do not apply to noncommercial group uses.]
Sec. 251.55 Nature of interest.
(a) A holder is authorized only to occupy such land and structures and conduct such activities as is specified in the special use authorization. The holder may sublet the use and occupancy of the premises and improvements authorized only with the prior written approval of the authorized officer, but the holder shall continue to be responsible for compliance with all conditions of the special use authorization.
(b) All rights not expressly granted are retained by the United States, including but not limited to
(1) continuing rights of access to all National Forest System land (including the subsurface and air space);
(2) a continuing right of physical entry to any part of the authorized facilities for inspection, monitoring, or for any other purposes or reason consistent with any right or obligation of the United States under any law or regulation; and
(3) the right to require common use of the land or to authorize the use by others in any way not inconsistent with a holder’s existing rights and privileges after consultation with all parties and agencies involved. When costs can be feasibly allocated and have not been amortized, a new holder may be required to compensate existing holders for an equitable proportion of the original costs or other expense associated with the common use.
(c) Special use authorizations are subject to all outstanding valid rights.
(d) Each special use authorization will specify the lands to be used or occupied which shall be limited to that which the authorized officer determines:
(2) to be necessary for the construction, operation, maintenance, and full utilization of the authorized facilities or the conduct of authorized activities; and,
(3) to be necessary to protect the public health and safety and the environment.
Sec. 251.56 Terms and conditions.
(1) Each special use authorization must contain:
(i) Terms and conditions which will:
(A) Carry out the purposes of applicable statutes and rules and regulations issued thereunder;
(B) Minimize damage to scenic and esthetic values and fish and wildlife habitat and otherwise protect the environment;
(C) Require compliance with applicable air and water quality standards established by or pursuant to applicable Federal or State law; and
(D) Require compliance with State standards for public health and safety, environmental protection, and siting, construction, operation, and maintenance if those standards are more stringent than applicable Federal standards.
(ii) Such terms and conditions as the authorized officer deems necessary to:
(A) Protect Federal property and economic interests;
(B) Manage efficiently the lands subject to the use and adjacent thereto;
(C) Protect other lawful users of the lands adjacent to or occupied by such use;
(D) Protect lives and property;
(E) Protect the interests of individuals living in the general area of the use who rely on the fish, wildlife, and other biotic resources of the area for subsistence purposes;
(F) Require siting to cause the least damage to the environment, taking into consideration feasibility and other relevant factors; and
(G) Otherwise protect the public interest.
Note to paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(G):
The Department is making explicit its preexisting understanding of Sec. 251.56(a)(1)(ii)(G) of this subpart in the context of authorizing noncommercial group uses of National Forest System lands. Section 251.56(a)(1)(ii)(G) provides that each special use authorization shall contain such terms and conditions as the authorized officer deems necessary to otherwise protect the public interest. In the context of noncommercial group uses, the Forest Service interprets the term “public interest” found in Sec. 251.56(a)(1)(ii)(G) to refer to the three public interests identified by the Forest Service on August 30, 1995. These public interests include the protection of resources and improvements on National Forest System lands, the allocation of space among potential or existing uses and activities, and public health and safety concerns. Under this construction, Sec. 251.56(a)(1)(ii)(G) allows the Forest Service to impose terms and conditions that are not specifically addressed in Sec. 251.56 (a)(1)(ii)(A)-(F) but only those that further these public interests. The Forest Service shall implement and enforce Sec. 251.56(a)(1)(ii)(G) in accordance with this interpretation.
[This paragraph was inserted into the 1996 version in response to the decision in the 1988 court case challenging the blockade of the Texas national gathering by the FS LEOs.]
[(b) and (c) deal with commercial construction.]
(d) Liability. Holders shall pay the United States for all injury, loss, or damage, including fire suppression costs, in accordance with existing Federal and State laws.
(1) Holders shall also indemnify the United States for any and all injury, loss, or damage, including fire suppression costs, the United States may suffer as a result of claims, demands, losses, or judgments caused by the holder’s use or occupancy.
[This means having insurance that covers paying back the government in case of loss.]
[The words from here to the end of Sec.256.56, as well as all of 256.57, 256.58, and 256.9, apply only to commercial activities.]
Sec. 251.60 Termination, revocation, and suspension.
(a) Grounds for termination, revocation, and suspension–
(1) Noncommercial group uses—
(i) Revocation or suspension. An authorized officer may revoke or suspend a special use authorization for a noncommercial group use only under one of the following circumstances:
(A) Under the criteria for which an application for a special use authorization may be denied under Sec. 251.54(g)(3)(ii);
(B) For noncompliance with applicable statutes or regulations or the terms and conditions of the authorization;
(C) For failure of the holder to exercise the rights or privileges granted; or
(D) With the consent of the holder.
(ii) Administrative or judicial review. Revocation or suspension of a special use authorization under this paragraph constitutes final agency action and is immediately subject to judicial review.
(iii) Termination. A special use authorization for a noncommercial group use terminates when it expires by its own terms. Termination of a special use authorization under this paragraph does not involve agency action and is not subject to administrative or judicial review.
(2) All other special uses—
[Everything from here to the end of Part 251 applies only to commercial activities.]
[Also of interest to Rainbow gatherers is the following.]
Subpart A—General Prohibitions
Authority: 7 U.S.C. 1011(f); 16 U.S.C. 472, 551, 620(f), 1133(c), (d)(1), 1246(i).
Source: 42 FR 2957, Jan. 14, 1977, unless otherwise noted.
§ 261.1 Scope.
(a) The prohibitions in this part apply, except as otherwise provided, when:
(1) An act or omission occurs in the National Forest System or on a National Forest System road or trail.
(2) An act or omission affects, threatens, or endangers property of the United States administered by the Forest Service.
(3) An act or omission affects, threatens, or endangers a person using, or engaged in the protection, improvement or administration of the National Forest System or a National Forest System road or trail.
(4) An act or omission occurs within the designated boundaries of a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
(b) Nothing in this part shall preclude activities as authorized by the Wilderness Act of 1964 or the U.S. Mining Laws Act of 1872 as amended.
(c) Unless an offense set out in this part specifies that intent is required, intent is not an element of any offense under this part.
(d) None of these prohibitions apply to any person engaged in fire suppression actions.
§ 261.1a Special use authorizations, contracts and operating plans.
The Chief, each Regional Forester, each Forest Supervisor, and each District Ranger or equivalent officer may issue special-use authorizations, award contracts, or approve operating plans authorizing the occupancy or use of a road, trail, area, river, lake, or other part of the National Forest System in accordance with authority which is delegated elsewhere in this chapter or in the Forest Service Manual. These Forest Officers may permit in the authorizing document or approved plan an act or omission that would otherwise be a violation of a subpart A or subpart C regulation or a subpart B order. In authorizing such uses, the Forest Officer may place such conditions on the authorization as that officer considers necessary for the protection or administration of the National Forest System, or for the promotion of public health, safety, or welfare.
§ 261.1b Penalty.
Any violation of the prohibitions of this part (261) shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than six months or both pursuant to title 16 U.S.C., section 551, unless otherwise provided.
[I don’t think many Rainbow gatherers will find much that is unreasonable in the prohibitions that follow.]