Alberta’s vacant public land offers many opportunities for recreational and non-recreational use. The province is responsible for managing vacant public land and land uses under the Public Lands Administration Regulation (PLAR). Vacant public land is public land that is not held under a disposition, or held under disposition but considered a vacant disposition area where activity is not likely to occur within 90 days.
Access permits are required for group activities, instructional and guided activities, on vacant public land that are for a commercial purpose, or for a recreational activity that may cause loss or damage to vacant public land, or will occupy the land for longer than 14 days.
If you’re doing construction, development or maintenance of a trail, you will likely need a Temporary Field Authorization, rather than an access permit, to conduct that work.
Who needs an access permit
Access permits are required for:
Commercial activities include any group activity where the organizer (company or non-profit organization) is collecting a fee, donations or sponsorships.
You are likely to need an access permit for group activities, even recreational activities, if:
- the organizer is a business
- the activity is a fundraiser
- there is a registration fee for the activity
- there is a membership fee for joining the organization that is hosting the activity
- advertising, sponsorship or donation dollars are collected to support the activity
Examples of commercial activities that require an access permit:
- foot races that charge a membership fee
- snowmobile rallies with fundraising goals
Guiding and instructing
If you are guiding or instructing a group on vacant public land, you do not require an access permit if your activity will take place on a publicly owned road or trail, on a provincial trail or in a parking area. However, you may still require an access permit if your activity:
- is occurring off-trail or outside of a parking area
- is expected to occur for longer than 14 days
- enters a closed area
- may cause loss or damage to the land
Examples of commercial activities that do not require an access permit:
- school field trip
- guided hike or nature walk
Individuals participating in a recreational activity may or may not affect the land. However, a group participating in the same activity is likely to have a larger impact on the land. Recreational activities may require an access permit if the activity may cause loss or damage to public land due to the:
- nature of the activity
- number of people attending
- timing (activity duration, season, etc.)
If there is a risk of your group activity causing damage to the land, will occupy the land for longer than 14 days, will access a closed area or will contravene a disturbance standard, you are likely to need an access permit.
For Indigenous peoples exercising treaty rights that are recognized and affirmed under Part II of the Constitution Act, 1982 or a right under section 12 of the Transfer Agreement, access permits are not required.
Applying for an access permit
Access permits are free of charge and help to ensure a safe experience for your participants and other land users, and to reduce the risk of accidental damage to Alberta’s public land.
Even if your group activity does not require an access permit, you may wish to obtain one to promote public safety and to prevent conflicts with other land users.
Any activity that proceeds without a permit could result in a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual or $1,000,000 for a corporation, and an order to repair damage.
Step 1. Connect with a Lands Officer
When organizing a group activity, we encourage organizers to contact the regional lands office and speak with a lands officer about their plans well in advance of planning an activity. Regional land officers can help you determine if your group activity needs a permit by discussing:
- land availability and suitability for your activity
- safety, waste management, or sensitive environmental features
- potential impacts or conflicts with adjacent landowners
Land officers are available during business hours, Monday to Friday. Find a lands officer in your region.
Step 2. Apply for an access permit
Complete the online application form (PDF, 500 KB) to apply for an Access Permit under the Public Lands Administration Regulation and submit it to your regional land officer.
The intent of the application form is to ask appropriate questions to ensure relevant impacts and risks to public land is mitigated.
Depending on the activity, number of participants, time of year, location of activity, and duration for the activity, a director reviewing an access permit form may request more information.
Implementing your access permit
If your activity requires an access permit, a land officer will provide guidance on how to apply for a permit and the development of a mitigation plan to reduce potential risks to the land. The land officer will ensure applications for permits outline and address any possible risks of damage to sensitive environmental habitat.
Access permits will ensure there are plans in place for:
- traffic control
- emergency evacuation
- waste management (of both food and human waste)
Access permits have approval conditions that will be enforced and inspected for non-compliance.
For general information about access permits, contact:
Phone: 310-LAND (5263)
Was this page helpful?
Your submissions are monitored by our web team and are used to help improve the experience on Alberta.ca.