Section 4(f) evaluation guidance

Under Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Act of 1966, projects that receive funding or approval by any U.S. DOT agency must avoid impacts to Section 4(f) properties. These properties include public parks and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites. When a project cannot avoid Section 4(f) properties, Section 4(f) requires documentation and approval by the federal lead USDOT agency.

If a Section 4(f) property ever received Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grants, a 6(f) evaluation will likely be required as well.

Chapter 457: Section 4(f) Evaluation of our Environmental Manual describes requirements for conducting Section 4(f) Analysis. 

Identifying a Section 4(f) property

Use the 23 CFR 774, FHWA Section 4(f) Tutorial and Section 4(f) Policy Paper for background, fundamental definitions, and requirements of Section 4(f). Identify the Section 4(f) properties in the project study areas.

Review the list of Other Considerations to identify properties that do not fit neatly into the Section 4(f) definition.

Determine level of use

The level of “use” of a Section 4(f) resource will determine the type of evaluation and documentation required. Answer the questions in the table below to determine the requirements for your project.

A project may impact more than one Section 4(f) resource. Determine level of use for each resource and document separately, except when doing an Individual Evaluation.

1.  Does the project have any Section 4(f) resources (parks, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, historic properties) impacted/used within the project limits?

  • No
    Answer CE Checklist question. No further documentation required.
  • Yes
    Continue to the next question.

2.  Does the project permanently incorporate land from the Section 4(f) property into the transportation facility?

  • No
    Determine if one of the Section 4(f) exceptions in 23 CFR 774.13 applies. If not, continue to next question.
  • Yes
    Continue to the next question.

3.  Does the project adversely affect the activities, features, or attributes that make the property eligible for Section 4(f) protection, when including mitigation?

Documenting Section 4(f) use

The NEPA classification of the project does not drive the level of Section 4(f) documentation and vice versa. However, a complicated or controversial Section 4(f) Evaluation may be considered an “unusual circumstance” when documenting as a CE and may affect the project’s NEPA classification.

Determine if a Section 4(f) exception applies

Each of the following Section 4(f) exceptions (23 CFR 774.13) have different documentation requirements and require USDOT (FHWA, FTA, FRA, FAA) approval.

  • Use the Temporary Occupancy template (docx 18 kb) to determine if this exception applies and to receive USDOT approval.
  • Use the Certain Trails template (docx 20 kb) to determine if this exception applies.
  • To use the Restoration, Rehabilitation, or Maintenance of historic transportation facilities exception, a cultural resource specialist must determine “no adverse effect” with SHPO/THPO concurrence.
  • Use the Transportation Enhancement and Mitigation template (docx 20 kb) and use the letter template (docx xx kb) to send to official with jurisdiction for concurrence with determination.

De minimis use

Use the de minimis template (docx 29 kb) to document for federal approval, if:

  • The project does not adversely (negatively) affect historic properties
  • The project does not adversely affect the features, attributes, or activities that qualify the parks, recreation, or refuge sites for Section 4(f) protection.
  1. Refer to the Describing a Section 4(f) property guidance (docx 17 kb) to help fill out the de minimis template.
  2. Also, use the letter template (docx 17 kb) to send to official with jurisdiction for concurrence with determination.

Distribute for public review and comments on the effects of the project on the protected activities, features, and activities of each Section 4(f) resource.

If the negative effects adversely affect the Section 4(f) resource(s) then you may need to do a Section 4(f) Individual Evaluation.

Individual Evaluation

Work with Ashley Carle, and the federal lead to develop your strategy.

If a Discipline Report is needed, use the Section 4(f) (pdf 57 kb) Discipline Report checklist for general guidance during your review. See the Preparing quality environmental documents webpage for more discipline report guidance.

Follow these submittal requirements (pdf 60 kb) when submitting your Individual Evaluation to the Department of Interior.