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Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) 3.0 (ver. 2.0, March 2023)

October 24, 2022

The USGS Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) is the nation's inventory of protected areas, including public land and voluntarily provided private protected areas, identified as an A-16 National Geospatial Data Asset in the Cadastre Theme ( ). The PAD-US is an ongoing project with several published versions of a spatial database including areas dedicated to the preservation of biological diversity, and other natural (including extraction), recreational, or cultural uses, managed for these purposes through legal or other effective means. The database was originally designed to support biodiversity assessments; however, its scope expanded in recent years to include all open space public and nonprofit lands and waters. Most are public lands owned in fee (the owner of the property has full and irrevocable ownership of the land); however, permanent and long-term easements, leases, agreements, Congressional (e.g. 'Wilderness Area'), Executive (e.g. 'National Monument'), and administrative designations (e.g. 'Area of Critical Environmental Concern') documented in agency management plans are also included. The PAD-US strives to be a complete inventory of U.S. public land and other protected areas, compiling “best available” data provided by managing agencies and organizations. The PAD-US geodatabase maps and describes areas using thirty-six attributes and five separate feature classes representing the U.S. protected areas network: Fee (ownership parcels), Designation, Easement, Marine, Proclamation and Other Planning Boundaries. An additional Combined feature class includes the full PAD-US inventory to support data management, queries, web mapping services, and analyses. The Feature Class (FeatClass) field in the Combined layer allows users to extract data types as needed. A Federal Data Reference file geodatabase lookup table (PADUS3_0Combined_Federal_Data_References) facilitates the extraction of authoritative federal data provided or recommended by managing agencies from the Combined PAD-US inventory.

This PAD-US Version 3.0 dataset includes a variety of updates from the previous Version 2.1 dataset (USGS, 2020, ), achieving goals to: 1) Annually update and improve spatial data representing the federal estate for PAD-US applications; 2) Update state and local lands data as state data-steward and PAD-US Team resources allow; and 3) Automate data translation efforts to increase PAD-US update efficiency. The following list summarizes the integration of "best available" spatial data to ensure public lands and other protected areas from all jurisdictions are represented in the PAD-US (other data were transferred from PAD-US 2.1).

Federal updates - The USGS remains committed to updating federal fee owned lands data and major designation changes in annual PAD-US updates, where authoritative data provided directly by managing agencies are available or alternative data sources are recommended. The following is a list of updates or revisions associated with the federal estate:

1) Major update of the Federal estate (fee ownership parcels, easement interest, and management designations where available), including authoritative data from 8 agencies: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Census Bureau (Census Bureau), Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The federal theme in PAD-US is developed in close collaboration with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Federal Lands Working Group (FLWG,… ).

2) Improved the representation (boundaries and attributes) of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands, in collaboration with agency data-stewards, in response to feedback from the PAD-US Team and stakeholders.

3) Added a Federal Data Reference file geodatabase lookup table (PADUS3_0Combined_Federal_Data_References) to the PAD-US 3.0 geodatabase to facilitate the extraction (by Data Provider, Dataset Name, and/or Aggregator Source) of authoritative data provided directly (or recommended) by federal managing agencies from the full PAD-US inventory. A summary of the number of records (Frequency) and calculated GIS Acres (vs Documented Acres) associated with features provided by each Aggregator Source is included; however, the number of records may vary from source data as the "State Name" standard is applied to national files. The Feature Class (FeatClass) field in the table and geodatabase describe the data type to highlight overlapping features in the full inventory (e.g. Designation features often overlap Fee features) and to assist users in building queries for applications as needed.

4) Scripted the translation of the Department of Defense, Census Bureau, and Natural Resource Conservation Service source data into the PAD-US format to increase update efficiency.

5) Revised conservation measures (GAP Status Code, IUCN Category) to more accurately represent protected and conserved areas. For example, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Waterfowl Production Area Wetland Easements changed from GAP Status Code 2 to 4 as spatial data currently represents the complete parcel (about 10.54 million acres primarily in North Dakota and South Dakota). Only aliquot parts of these parcels are documented under wetland easement (1.64 million acres). These acreages are provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are referenced in the PAD-US geodatabase Easement feature class 'Comments' field.

State updates - The USGS is committed to building capacity in the state data-steward network and the PAD-US Team to increase the frequency of state land updates, as resources allow. The USGS supported efforts to significantly increase state inventory completeness with the integration of local parks data in the PAD-US 2.1, and developed a state-to-PAD-US data translation script during PAD-US 3.0 development to pilot in future updates. Additional efforts are in progress to support the technical and organizational strategies needed to increase the frequency of state updates. The PAD-US 3.0 included major updates to the following three states:

1) California - added or updated state, regional, local, and nonprofit lands data from the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), managed by GreenInfo Network, and integrated conservation and recreation measure changes following review coordinated by the data-steward with state managing agencies. Developed a data translation Python script (see Process Step 2 Source Data Documentation) in collaboration with the data-steward to increase the accuracy and efficiency of future PAD-US updates from CPAD.

2) Virginia - added or updated state, local, and nonprofit protected areas data (and removed legacy data) from the Virginia Conservation Lands Database, provided by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Natural Heritage Program, and integrated conservation and recreation measure changes following review by the data-steward.

3) West Virginia - added or updated state, local, and nonprofit protected areas data provided by the West Virginia University, GIS Technical Center.

For more information regarding the PAD-US dataset please visit, For more information about data aggregation please review the PAD-US Data Manual available at… .

A version history of PAD-US updates is summarized below (See… for more information):
1) First posted - April 2009 (Version 1.0 - available from the PAD-US: Team
2) Revised - May 2010 (Version 1.1 - available from the PAD-US: Team
3) Revised - April 2011 (Version 1.2 - available from the PAD-US: Team
4) Revised - November 2012 (Version 1.3)
5) Revised - May 2016 (Version 1.4)
6) Revised - September 2018 (Version 2.0)
7) Revised - September 2020 (Version 2.1)
8) Revised - January 2022 (Version 3.0)
Comparing protected area trends between PAD-US versions is not recommended without consultation with USGS as many changes reflect improvements to agency and organization GIS systems, or conservation and recreation measure classification, rather than actual changes in protected area acquisition on the ground.

Publication Year 2022
Title Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) 3.0 (ver. 2.0, March 2023)
DOI 10.5066/P9Q9LQ4B
Authors U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Gap Analysis Project (GAP)
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Science Analytics and Synthesis Program