Congress specifically has mandated that some federal lands cannot be subject to oil and gas development. National Parks are closed to oil and gas leasing with the exception of some recreational units. National Wildlife Refuges are closed to leasing unless specifically opened by the Secretary of the Interior. In practice, the Secretary has leased only those refuge system lands subject to drainage or where leases existed prior to the creation of a refuge. Wilderness areas were open to leasing until 1984.  FOOGLRA formally closed wilderness study areas to oil and gas leasing as of 1987.

Almost all other public lands are open for oil and gas development. The conservation activist has to be aware that oil and gas development is a possible public land use practically everywhere.