The new group uses rule:

-- Requires a permit for an activity on National Forest System lands that involves a group of 75 or more people in order to mitigate damage to resources and facilities in the National Forest System.

-- Provides a reasonable administrative system for controlling or preventing adverse impacts on forest resources, addressing concerns of public health and safety, and allocating space in the National Forests among competing uses and activities, including protection of habitat for endangered, threatened, or other plant and animal species.

-- Ensures that the authorization procedures for noncommercial group uses comply with First Amendment requirements of freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.

-- Establishes a presumption in favor of granting a permit for all noncommercial group uses.

-- Treats all noncommercial group uses consistently and fairly

-- Establishes specific, content-neutral evaluation criteria that apply to all applications for noncommercial group uses.

-- The evaluation criteria regulate time, place, and manner for noncommercial group uses and reflect specific management concerns, such as mitigation of resource damage, compliance with federal, state, and local law, compliance with forest land and resource management plan direction, and considerations of public health and safety.

Large group gatherings on National Forests have significant adverse impacts on Forest resources, public health and safety, and the agency's ability to allocate space in the face of increasing constraints on the use of National Forest System lands. These adverse impacts include the spread of disease, pollution from inadequate site clean-up, soil compaction from inadequate site restoration, damage to archaeological sites, and traffic congestion. A permit system allows the agency to address these problems more expeditiously, effectively, and equitably.

One example of how the new group uses rule helps the agency and the Public protect forest resources: The agency might deny an application and offer another site or time if a noncommercial group of 75 or more requested to camp in grizzly bear habitat during early spring, when the grizzly bear, a species listed as threatened and protected under the Endangered Species Act, comes out of hibernation.

The government may enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on First Amendment activities. Such restrictions are constitutional when justified without regard to the content of the regulated speech, when narrowly tailored to further a significant governmental interest, and when they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of information.

Questions and Answers

Rainbow Case Intro