Environmental Review Toolkit

Section 4(f) Tutorial



This portion of the tutorial will acquaint you with the Section 4(f) concept of use. When you have finished, you should have a basic understanding of the following:

  • The three conditions under which use occurs
  • De minimis impact
  • The broad range of Other Considerations, including transportation enhancement projects and mitigation activities


The term use—as it relates to Section 4(f)—denotes an adverse impact to, or occupancy of, a Section 4(f) property. There are three conditions under which use occurs:

  • Permanent Incorporation – when a Section 4(f) property is acquired outright for a transportation project.
  • Temporary Occupancy – when there is temporary use of property that is adverse in terms of Section 4(f)'s preservationist purpose.
  • Constructive Use – when the proximity impacts of a transportation project on a Section 4(f) property, even without acquisition of the property, are so great that the activities, features and attributes of the property are substantially impaired. Substantial impairment occurs only when the protected activities, features or attributes of the resource are substantially diminished.

When a transportation project results in a use of land from a Section 4(f) property, the State DOT (or other sponsoring agency, such as a Local Public Agency) generally acquires interest in land by one of the following methods:

  • fee simple
  • permanent easement
  • temporary easement

Once a use has been determined, the intensity or magnitude of impact to the Section 4(f) property can be described either as "de minimis" or not "de minimis." In addition, there is a host of unique situations that constitute what we have termed "Other Considerations" and that do not necessarily fit into any of the three main categories of use. The remainder of this section addresses the three main types of use, as well as many of the other uses you are likely to encounter.