Environmental Review Toolkit

Section 4(f) Tutorial

Section 4(f) Properties


This portion of the tutorial provides information on the Section 4(f) properties. When you have finished, you should have a basic understanding of the following:

  • The types of properties that are eligible for Section 4(f) protection
  • The defining criteria for each type of properties
  • Other considerations related to determining the eligibility of other types of resources


As stated in the original Section 4(f) legislation of 1966 and its revisions (1968 and 1983), Section 4(f) protects the following basic types of properties: publicly owned park and recreation areas that are open to the general public, publicly owned wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and public or privately owned historic sites. The term historic sites includes prehistoric and historic districts, sites, buildings, structures or objects listed in, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places. This may also include places of traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and that meet the National Register criteria.

Sometimes, you may encounter properties that do not fit neatly into one of these categories. Such properties may belong to one or more of the four basic property categories identified by the statute, and may or may not be protected by Section 4(f), depending on a variety of other factors. More information on how to determine whether Section 4(f) applies to these other types of properties is discussed in more detail in the "Other Considerations" portion of this section. In addition, some properties might have multiple Section 4(f) applicability (for instance, a park might also be historic and have a trail running through it).  Each of those elements must be considered in the evaluation.

It is important to note that a property’s Section 4(f) status is determined not by its name, but by the criteria that define it. The criteria used to evaluate whether Section 4(f) applies to a property is defined and discussed in the following pages of this section. As a reminder, FHWA is ultimately responsible for making all decisions related to Section 4(f) compliance, including whether Section 4(f) applies to the property.

The following pages provide information on the defining criteria for each type of Section 4(f) property. Click the next button or select one of the following links to jump directly to that section.