Mapping Public Lands in the United States

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The Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) is the official inventory of public parks and other protected areas in all U.S. states and territories.

The growing database contains more than three billion public land and marine acres managed by nearly 15,100 agencies and nongovernmental organizations,  covering 200,000 separate parks and protected areas. PAD-US is a product of Core Science Analytics, Synthesis, and Library (CSAS&L) in the USGS Core Science Systems Mission Area.

Bryce Canyon National Park - one of 200,000 units in PAD-US.
Bryce Canyon National Park - one of 200,000 units in PAD-US. (Credit: Bryce Canyon National Park by neufal54. - Public domain.) 

Explore the PAD-US Map Viewer.

Screen shot of PAD-US map viewer – national view
The PAD-US Map Viewer displays a variety of map layers from Manager Name to Public Access. (Public domain.)

Zoom in for even more detail.

Screen shot of PAD-US Map Viewer showing land managers in the Denver, Colorado area.
PAD-US Map Viewer showing land managers in the Denver, Colorado area. (Public domain.)

What can you do with PAD-US?

Explore the different types of public lands in the United States.  National, state, regional, and local organizations all manage protected lands. From the PAD-US map you can identify protected areas managed by various federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service. Or you can view information for recreational areas such as State Parks.

Screen shot of printable map of all public lands of the U.S.
Download this printable, highly detailed map of all public lands of the U.S. from the National Gap Analysis Program Protected Areas Data Portal. (Public domain.)
Screen shot of PAD-US map, information about state parks and recreation areas, Elephant Butte Lake State Park
PAD-US also includes information about state parks and recreation areas like this information for Elephant Butte Lake State Park in New Mexico. (Public domain.)

If you need to prepare a map with public lands or conduct analysis involving public land boundaries and designations you can access PAD-US data by download or through web services. You can also download printable maps.

How do others use PAD-US?

PAD-US is used by a wide range of organizations and agencies:

  • The National Wildfire Coordinating Group uses it to identify stakeholders during fire response and planning efforts. "PAD-US is a powerful tool and now has much MORE information available. Being able to use one data source that handles surface management jurisdiction and designations, and is transparent back to the original data sources, is tremendously important for the wildland fire community.” (quote from Andrew Bailey  - National Wildfire Coordinating Group)
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is using PAD-US data in a project to estimate the contribution of different protected area land ownerships to birds of conservation concern.
  • Recreation.gov will soon use PAD-US park boundaries in its next-generation park and event reservations system.
  • Biodiversity protection categories in PAD-US are used to support assessments of biodiversity.
Scree shot of PAD-US Map Viewer displaying biodiversity protection categories.
PAD-US Map Viewer displaying biodiversity protection categories.(Public domain.)

Working together to build PAD-US.

To get all these data into PAD-US, the USGS works with federal agencies and with state data stewards (governments, universities, and nonprofits) to aggregate data for all protected areas. In particular, the USGS, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. coordinate the Federal Lands Working Group which has adopted first-ever protocols for integrating authoritative federal land data from agencies into the national database. USGS has also supported state organizations with small grants to complete their inventories and increase the efficiency of PAD-US updates.

Screen shot, how PAD-US is built
PAD-US is created through coordination with states for data at local, regional and state levels, through cooperation among federal land managing agencies, and through contributions from nonprofit organizations.  PAD-US publication data is also provided to international organizations. (Public domain.)

Looking ahead.

Work by the Trust for Public Land is helping to fill in missing data for many urban area parks, data that will be shared with PAD-US by the end of 2018.  The next update to PAD-US will be published in late 2017.  This update builds on major improvements made in the 2016 release by providing an easier to use data structure that better manages overlapping designations (for example, Wilderness), along with extensive new data additions.

You can learn much more about PAD-US by downloading a new report that outlines how PAD-US works and defines the road map for its completion. GreenInfo Network is a private partner that helps USGS achieve the PAD-US mission and was instrumental in preparing this report.