The Secretary of the Interior has the authority to withdraw lands in Federal ownership, effectively removing an area of Federal land from settlement, sale, location, or entry for the purpose of limiting activities under those laws to maintain other public values in the area or reserving it for a particular public purpose or program. Withdrawals are also used to transfer jurisdiction over Federal land from one Department, bureau, or agency to another. 

Public lands may also be withdrawn and reserved for military training and testing in support of national defense requirements.  Military withdrawals and reservations of 5,000 or more acres are authorized by Act of Congress; military withdrawals of less than 5,000 acres are by Secretarial Order.

There are four major categories of formal withdrawals:

1. Administrative withdrawals are made by the President, Secretary of the Interior, or other authorized Executive branch officers.  Examples include Executive Orders, Presidential Proclamations, Secretarial Orders, Public Land Orders, Departmental Orders, U.S. Geological Survey Orders, and BLM Orders.  Currently, only public land orders signed by the Secretary or Assistant Secretary of the Interior are used for administrative withdrawals. However, the President still has authority to make emergency withdrawals.

2. Presidential Proclamation withdrawals are made by the President pursuant to the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906.  The President may use this authority to designate landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.

3. Congressional withdrawals are legislative actions taken by Congress in the form of public laws.  Examples include Wilderness designations, creation of National Parks, and Wild and Scenic River designations, among others.

4. FPA or FERC withdrawals are established under the authority of the Federal Power Act (FPA) of June 10, 1920.  Such withdrawals are automatically created upon filing an application for hydroelectric power development with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC (formerly the FPC).  NOTE: Do not confuse FERC power project withdrawals with power site reserves, power site classifications, waterpower designations, and reservoir site reserves, which are all Administrative withdrawals.

Quick Link