Department of Environmental Conservation

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Agencies that Manage Public Land

A guide to federal, state and local forests and parks

An adult, two boys and two girls hold hands around the base of a large tree in a forest.
There's something for everyone on
public lands (Photo: Wayne Jones)

There are more than 4 million acres of land open to the public for recreation. These lands are managed by different federal and state agencies, as well as municipal entities. Below is an explanation of who manages what lands.

DEC recreation lands

DEC manages the most public recreation land in New York State. These lands include:

*A note about the Adirondack and Catskill regions: While these two regions are called "parks", they are not State Parks (see below), and approximately half of each park remains in private ownership.

How to find DEC recreation lands

Visit the Places To Go page for locations and descriptions of these lands as well as recreational opportunities.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP)

OPRHP is responsible for State Parks and State Historic Sites. These sites are located throughout the state, with the exception of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Many State Parks also have campgrounds.

For more information on State Parks and Historic Sites, follow the links to OPRHP's website in the right column.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP)

A map showing New York City's two major watershed/water supply areas on both sides of the Hudson River in southeastern NY
Most of New York City's reservoirs and
water supply lands are open to the public
for recreation (Map: NYC DEP)

DEP is responsible for managing lands within the New York City Watershed that provide drinking water to city residents. These lands fall within two regions: East of Hudson, which includes portions of Westchester and Putnam Counties, and West of Hudson, which falls within the Catskill Region. New York City allows recreational activities on most of their lands, but a permit may be required.

For more information, follow the link to DEP's website in the right column.

Federal Recreation Land

New York also has public recreation land that is managed by federal agencies.

  • The National Park Service oversees the National Parks, National Historic Sites, National Monuments, National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Memorials and more.
  • The National Forest Service manages the Finger Lakes National Forest, located in Seneca and Schuyler Counties.
  • The National Fish and Wildlife Service oversees ten National Wildlife Refuges, the majority of which are on Long Island.

For more information on these areas, follow the links to the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and National Fish and Wildlife Service in the right column.

County and Local Parks

Many counties, towns, and cities operate public parks throughout New York. To locate a county or municipal park near you, contact your local municipality.

Places to go for Region 1 Places to go for Region 2 Places to go for Region 3 Places to go for Region 4 Places to go for Region 5 Places to go for Region 6 Places to go for Region 7 Places to go for Region 8 Places to go for Region 9