Special Use Permits


A special use permit is needed to participate in certain activities on conservation areas, including:

  • Groups of more than 10 people for camping, horseback riding, bicycling, and use of shooting ranges
  • Individuals with mobility disabilities who wish to operate other powered mobility devices (including all-terrain vehicles, off-road vehicles, utility vehicles, or other motorized vehicles) on MDC roads that are closed to public vehicular traffic or off-trail
  • Furbearer trapping
  • Placement of geocaches and letterboxes
  • Drone use
  • Commercial uses (commercial photography and videography require separate commercial use permits)
  • Other group or special activities at the discretion of the area manager

Not all requests for special use permits will be granted. Conservation areas are primarily for fishing, hunting, nature observation, and conservation education. Primary public uses are encouraged on all MDC areas, with few exceptions.

Other public uses of MDC areas may be appropriate and are evaluated locally using statewide Public Use Guidelines.

Applications should be submitted at least four weeks prior to your event. Applications submitted later will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Special use permits may be granted under certain circumstances to make MDC’s conservation areas and properties more accessible to people with mobility disabilities. When deciding to issue a special use permit, the department considers:

  • The type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
  • The facility’s volume of pedestrian traffic (which may vary at different times of the day, week, month or year);
  • The facility’s design and operational characteristics (e.g., whether its service, program, or activity is conducted indoors; its square footage; the density and placement of stationary devices; and the availability of storage for the device, if requested by the user);
  • Whether the legitimate safety requirements can be established to permit the safe operation of the device in the specific facility; and
  • Whether the use of the device creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources.

Under MDC’s policies, area managers are authorized to allow, condition, or deny special use permits for mobility device access to closed roads or off-road so long as the determination is based on the assessment factors described above, including documentable safety, facility, or natural resource management purposes.

Other factors include search and rescue operations, weather conditions, ground conditions, seasonal closure of areas for wildlife or habitat protection, and hunting programs. Managers may also limit how other power-driven mobility devices and motor vehicles can be used to scout or retrieve game.


The following guidelines will be considered when determining if a public use is appropriate:

  1. Will the activity interfere with or in any way compromise management of the conservation area’s fish, forest, wildlife, and natural communities?
  2. Will the activity conflict with local ordinances, state constitution, MDC regulations, Commission policy or Federal Aid requirements?
  3. Will the activity cause an unacceptable level of damage to natural resources or facilities?
  4. Is the long-term impact of the proposed activity — and the commitment in budget and staffing — fully evaluated and understood?
  5. Will the activity conflict with scheduled or seasonal primary public uses?
  6. Will the activity require undue accommodation from MDC staff, including reservations, special setup, cleanup, or maintenance?
  7. Will the activity impede foot, boat, or vehicular traffic flow or restrict access to area locales normally open to the general public?
  8. Will the activity pose a threat to public health, safety, and welfare?

Examples of inappropriate use

Inappropriate uses of MDC areas include, but are not limited to: guiding for pay; paint balling or airsoft-type weapons; hot air ballooning; use of hang gliders, ultra-light aircraft, powered parachutes; radio-controlled boat or land vehicle use; car shows; music festivals; non-government military training; off-road use of motorized vehicles; digging or excavating; trail or game cameras; placement of grain, salt products, minerals, and other consumable products on land; placement of honey bee apiaries; commercial and political advertising; and mineral prospecting and extraction.

Submit a Special Use Permit

Fill out the application online. You can also request an application by calling your MDC regional office and requesting to speak with the manager for the area you are interested in.

Print and mail the completed application to your MDC regional office, or email the completed application to the area manager. (Call the regional office for specific contact information for the area).

Most applications are processed within two weeks.