Recreation and Public Purposes Act

Over the past 40 years, Americans have expressed a dynamic and accelerated interest in outdoor recreation. Our expanding urban populations, increased mobility and leisure time, and higher standard of living have created a demand for more and better recreation facilities. By the same token, urban expansion and a growing population have increased the need for more public services, such as schools, community buildings, hospitals, and sanitary landfills, just to name a few.

Recognizing the strong public need for a nationwide system of parks and other recreational and public purposes areas, the Congress, in 1954, enacted the Recreation and Public Purposes Act (68 Statute 173; 43 United States Code 869 et. seq.) as a complete revision of the Recreation Act of 1926 (44 Stat. 741). This law is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The act authorizes the sale or lease of public lands for recreational or public purposes to State and local governments and to qualified nonprofit organizations. Examples of typical uses under the act are historic monument sites, campgrounds, schools, fire houses, law enforcement tacilities, municipal facilities, landfills, hospitals, parks, and fairgrounds.

A 17 page "Recreation and Public Purposes Act Information Sheet" designed to guide prospective applicants in obtaining lands and benefits under the act is attached.  To download the document, select this link.

Department of the Interior regulations for the Recreation and Public Purposes Act are found in Title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations (43 CFR), Parts 2740 (Sales ) and 2912 (Leases).

What Lands are Covered by the Act?

The act applies to all Public Lands, except lands within national forests, national parks and monuments, national wildlife refuges, Indian lands, and acquired lands.

Under special authority, BLM administers about 2 million acres of revested Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road grant lands in western Oregon. These lands may only be leased by public agencies under the act.

How much Land may be Purchased?

The amount of land an applicant can purchase is set by law. Whether the land is to be purchased or leased, the BLM will classify for purposes of the act only the amount of land required for efficient operation of the projects described in an applicant's development plan. Applicants should limit the land requested to a reasonable amount. Applicants will be required to first accept a lease, or lease with option to purchase, to assure approved development takes place before a sale is made and a patent (Government deed) is issued. Projects that may include the disposal, placement, or release of hazardous materials (i.e., sanitary landfills) may go directly to patent.

State Agencies

Any State, State agency or political subdivision of a state may purchase for recreation purposes up to 6,400 acres annually, and as many small roadside parks and rest sites, up to 10 acres each, as may be needed.  In addition, any State, State agency or political subdivision of a state may acquire 640 acres annually for each public purpose program other than recreation.  These lands must be within the political boundaries of the agency or within the area of jurisdiction of the organization or, in the case of cities, they must lie within convenient access to the municipality and within the same State. 

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations may purchase up to 640 acres a year for recreation purposes, and an additional 640 acres for other public purposes. 

How Much Land may be Leased?

The Act sets no limitation on the amount of land that may be leased.

Additional Resources