PAD-US Help System

Science Center Objects

The USGS Protected Areas Database of the U.S. (PAD-US) is the official GIS-based national inventory of protected area boundaries within the U.S. It includes public lands and parks, Wilderness Areas, National Wildlife Refuges, reserves, conservation easements, Marine Protected Areas, and more. This Help System is being developed to provide users with more information about PAD-US data sources, data attributes and structure, technical how-tos, and to answer frequently asked questions.  

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The vision for PAD-US is that it be a single, regularly updated geospatial database that allows users to find the boundaries and essential attribute information for every public park and other protected area in the United States.

PAD-US is published by the USGS in collaboration with Boise State University and through coordination with many Federal, State, and non-governmental organization data-stewards.

PAD-US serves as a data coordination, gathering, and integration framework that synthesizes Federal agency data. It also encourages the development of comprehensive, standardized inventories by State data-stewards. PAD-US also has collaborative relationships with other governmental and nonprofit gatherers of related data.

PAD-US is unique because it is:

  • Comprehensive — It is based on the goal of inventorying  all public land and other protected areas, covering everything from small neighborhood parks to huge Wilderness Areas, land trust preserves, easements, and Marine Protected Areas.
  • Publicly available — PAD-US is published by the Federal government; it is open and free to use for all public and commercial applications and research purposes.
  • Validated — The PAD-US Data Manual  has developed over time through rigorous peer and other review and testing by data-stewards across jurisdictions. For more information, see the PAD-US Data Manual.
  • Authoritative — PAD-US is the official inventory of America’s protected areas – a National Geospatial Data Asset, aggregated from authoritative data sources.
  • Adaptable — PAD-US is designed to support a wide range of uses, not just a specific type of use.
  • Expected — Having a single, federally led source of information on public parks and open space lands makes it intuitive to look for these national data.
  • Collaboratively developed  — PAD-US uses a process based on partnerships with Federal agencies and affiliations with key groups in each State plus national nonprofits and other organizations.

All of this makes PAD-US an outstanding data resource for many different users to apply to research, land management, policy analysis and development, service targeting, and more.

Status of Data Completeness

Updates to PAD-US include the most up-to-date aggregation of Federal lands and waters, National Conservation Easement Database (NCED) easement data, and State updates from those states with capacity to provide new data.

In 2020, data on over 75,000 U.S. city parks (nearly 2.7 million acres) in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) were added to the latest version of PAD-US from the Trust for Public Land’s ParkServe <> project. This addition significantly reduced the primary known data gap in previous PAD-US versions (local government lands). The latest version of PAD-US also includes nearly 5,000 local protected areas in 13 states, including 922 owned by local land trusts (over 350,000 acres), aggregated by Ducks Unlimited through data calls for easements to update the National Conservation Easement Database <>. This data was key to accomplishing the goal of improving  completeness for local and regional agency lands in most states that previously lacked this representation.

Current measures of the estimated completeness of all data in PAD-US can be found on the Data Stewards page – this also includes individual estimates for Federal, State, local and easement lands.   

How To Get PAD-US

Technical How-Tos

To learn more about what lands and waters are in PAD-US, what feature classes are included in PAD-US and how to work with them, what layer files are available, and to access tips for GIS users please view Technical How-Tos. 

Data Structures and Attributes

Information on the geodatabase structure, coordinate system, accuracy, topology, and attributes/data dictionary can be found here.

Data Sources and Processes

PAD-US is composed of data from a variety of sources: Federal agencies, State agencies, and non-governmental organizations such as The Trust for Public Land. More information about data sources and how the data is integrated into PAD-US can be found here.

Frequently Asked Questions