Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Environmental process | Environmental review | Section 6(f)

Section 6(f)/Land and Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON) Act process

Section 6(f) Standard Attachment for Programmatic Categorical Exclusion

The purpose of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LAWCON) is to help preserve, develop, and provide accessibility to outdoor recreation resources. It stipulates that any land acquired or developed with LAWCON funds cannot be converted to other than outdoor recreational use unless replacement land of at least equal fair market value and reasonably equivalent usefulness is provided. If you have a project that will cause such a conversion of LAWCON-funded land to a use other than outdoor recreation, regardless of funding source, you must provide replacement land.  The National Park Service must approve all conversions.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR), who administers the LAWCON program in Minnesota, must approve all conversion requests before they go to the National Park Service for final approval. See the MNDNR website for more information about the LAWCON program and the conversion process.

Application of Section 6(f) on transportation projects

The Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Act applies to any land acquired or developed with LAWCON funds. LAWCON funding has been used for many recreations and open-space facilities such as community playgrounds, state parks, trail corridors, and wildlife management areas. Section 6(f) land cannot be converted to a use other than outdoor recreation unless replacement land of at least equal value and usefulness is provided.

Any transportation project, regardless of funding source, is subject to Section 6(f). To determine if any land the state acquires is Section 6(f), check the list of Grant-Funded Parks and Natural Areas. This last also includes parks receiving state grants that have restrictions similar to those of the LAWCON program. This list is constantly expanding, so consult the MNDNR contact for assistance. You can see the Grants Manager listing on the LAWCON website.

Generally, grants under Section 6(f) stipulate that an entire park is covered under the conversion restriction, even if the grant only covers a small part of the park. In rare cases, the grant specifies that it only covers a part of the park. The MNDNR has a copy of every LAWCON agreement.

Anytime Section 4(f) involvement occurs, there is a possibility that Section 6(f) involvement also exists, but Section 6(f) involvement may be present even when no Section 4(f) involvement exists. For instance, a park that is not significant would be exempt from Section 4(f) procedures, but if LAWCON funds were used, Section 6(f) still covers that property. Since Section 6(f) applies to the park itself, the funding source for the highway project is nor relevant to whether or not there is Section 6(f) involvement (i.e., there may be Section 6(f) involvement on state or locally funded projects).

Underground easement projects that restore the surface and temporary easements of six months or fewer are not generally Section 6(f) conversions. The MNDNR and National Park Service will make this determination on a case-by-case basis.

If the state is going to acquire land subject to Section 6(f), you must satisfy the procedural requirements. Because doing so is a major undertaking, seriously consider options that avoid Section 6(f) involvement.

Funding similar to Section 6(f) LAWCON

There are other funding sources for parks, recreation, and wildlife refuge lands that have replacement requirements for land conversion like the LAWCON Section 6(f) requirement. If the project may result in the acquisition of any park, recreation, or wildlife refuge land, it is important to determine if the land has been acquired or developed with any of the following funding sources (in addition to LAWCON):

  • Federal Aid Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act)
  • Federal Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson Act)
  • MNDNR-administered Local Outdoor Recreation Grant Program
  • Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund
  • Minnesota Parks and Trails Legacy Fund
  • Minnesota state bonds
  • Other state or Metropolitan Council-administered recreation land grant programs

The MNDNR website includes LAWCON –funded properties and state-grant-funded projects. The owner with jurisdiction (OWJ) over the property (e.g., city, county, Metropolitan Council, or MNDNR) should be able to provide information regarding any other applicable funding sources. This document focuses on LAWCON Section 6(f). Contact the Office of Environmental Services (OES) for more information if the state is considering acquiring land with other funding sources.

LAWCON Section 6(f) in the environmental document

If the project does not affect any Section 6(f) property, include the following statement in the environmental document: LAWCON 6(f) involvement is typically identified early in project development, i.e. scoping of the project. Project staff should have early discussions with the DNR Grants Manager who will confirm the 6(f) impact and required mitigation (replacement land), including how DNR can assist with the mitigation process, and explain information needed for the LAWCON conversion request package including appraisals and NEPA review of the proposed conversion/replacement action. Project staff should also involve OES for assistance with DNR/NPS NEPA review requirements.

If you are preparing an environmental document for the project that impacts LAWCON-funded park land, include an affirmative statement explaining that MnDOT will comply with all the steps National Park Service and MNDNR’ requirements for approval.

LAWCON Section 6(f) in the Project development process

Usually, District Right of Way/Land Management is primarily responsible for LAWCON Section 6(f) conversion.

Typically, you should identify LAWCON Section 6(f) involvement in the scoping phase of a project. Have early discussions with the MNDNR Grants Manager, who will confirm the Section 6(f) impact and required mitigation (replacement land) and explain how the MNDNR can assist with the mitigation process and what information is necessary for the LAWCON conversion request package, which includes appraisals and NEPA review of the proposed conversion/replacement action. Involve OES for assistance with MNDNR and National Park Service NEPA review requirements.

The process to obtain approval of the action conversion can take a very long time, but you may pursue it independently of, or parallel to, the transportation project development process. You do not need the conversion approval prior to signature of the FHWA NEPA document.