New Protected Area Database (PAD-US) Released

Release Date:

Updated national geospatial inventory of public parks and open space lands features greater coverage and accuracy

America's tremendous asset base of public land and other protected open areas is critical for conservation, recreation, and public health applications. These include national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments and wilderness; state parks and wildlife management areas; county open space and city parks; land trust preserves, conservation easements, marine protected areas and many other lands.

Together, these include more than 150,000 places covering three billion acres, managed by thousands of public agencies and non-profit organizations that serve current and future generations. A complete and current Geographic Information System (GIS) database of these assets is a critical tool to achieve organizational missions across jurisdictions.

The Protected Areas Database of the U.S. (PAD-US) geodatabase is essential to organize and assess the long-term protection of biodiversity for the nation, required to fulfill the USGS Gap Analysis Program’s mission to assess the conservation status of native vertebrate species and natural land cover types, while facilitating the application of this information to land management activities.

Screen shot - Protected areas illustrated by PAD-US database
Protected areas illustrated by the primary managing entity from the PAD-US geodatabase.  PAD-US provides detailed information about managers from source data (Local Manager) along with standardized "Manager Name" for the nation. Large federal land holdings in the western US and Marine Protected Areas are prominent in the map at this scale.

This is the newest and most complete data yet on public parks and other protected areas. While there is still work to do, you can now see every available park and open space area owned by public agencies or nonprofits in many parts for the country.  The data also integrates currently available information on conservation easements in the U.S., creating a complete view of the U.S. protected land "estate". USGS has partnered with the nonprofit GreenInfo Network to support PAD-US, including development of the supplemental Protected Lands web site. The GreenInfo Network aids public interest groups and agencies with geospatial technology and is the manager of the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), one of the most comprehensive state inventories contributed to PAD-US. 


As many conservation areas provide multiple benefits, the database has expanded its scope to meet recreation access and public health policy needs by encompassing all local and neighborhood parks, with more of this data coming over the next three years through a public – private partnership with the Trust for Public Lands.

The enhanced PAD-US (version 1.4) includes:

  • Full replacement of all federal lands, developed with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Federal Lands Working Group,
  • Twenty PAD-US State Steward Network data update submissions: AK, AL, AZ, CA, FL GA, IN, KS, KY, MS, NE, NC, NV, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT,WA and WY,
  • Lands owned by The Nature Conservancy,
  • Conservation easements from the National Conservation Easement Database, suitable for distribution in the public domain,
  • Trust for Public Land contributions of local government parks and open space in 13 states,
  • National Marine Protected Areas from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) MPA Center,
  • Conservation measures review suggestions,
  • Additional standardized “Designation Type” categories,
  • New standardized “Manager Type” and “Manager Name” fields to better define owners vs managers,
  • Additional “Date of Establishment” for trends analyses (field in development),
  • “Public Access” coding reviewed by select PAD-US Stewards and federal partners,
  • Available parcel data included and dissolved on PAD-US attributes to increase database performance.

As a Federal Geographic Data Committee designated National Geospatial Data Asset, PAD-US is the authoritative GIS-based inventory of public and private open space boundaries.  Broadly, PAD-US is:

  1. The geospatial database of areas dedicated to the protection of biodiversity or other natural, recreational or cultural uses, managed for these purposes through legal or other effective means, with boundaries and descriptive attributes for nearly all federal and state managed areas, about half of local governments and many voluntarily-provided private protected areas across the U.S.
  2. A data gathering and integration framework that synthesizes federal agency data, facilitates the development of comprehensive, standardized inventories by state “stewards” and integrates other data to achieve the goal of inventorying all public and other protected areas.  PAD-US also includes conservation easements and Marine Protected Areas, developed by partners.
  3. A data resource for many different users to apply to research, land management, policy analyses, targeted services and more.  PAD-US is the source of US protected areas data in the World Database for Protected Areas ( and North American Environmental Atlas (

For anyone who manages, studies, or has policy oversight over large landscapes, PAD-US is an indispensable tool for geospatial activities. With the proper level of support, this data set can be truly complete across every part of the U.S., allowing anyone to zoom in to any location in America and see what land, or marine area,  is set aside as a park or protected open area.


Join upcoming webinars to learn about the PAD-US system, including recent updates, available maps and information, applications, strategy for the next three years and opportunities to participate. 

Two webinars are scheduled to share information: August 30 at 3 pm EDT and September 27 at 1 pm EDT.

Tuesday, August 30 - 3:00PM EDT (Teleconference information will be included when you log in to the WebEx)

Tuesday, September 27 - 1:00PM EDT (Teleconference information will be included when you log in to the WebEx)


Protected areas illustrated by GAP Status Code from the PAD-US geodatabase
Protected areas illustrated by GAP Status Code from the PAD-US geodatabase.  GAP Status Code is a measure of management intent to protect biodiversity, useful for conservation applications.  GAP Status Code 1, 2 and 3 areas are permanently protected from conversion to agriculture or development.  Areas primarily managed for the conservation of nature are identified as GAP 1 or 2, while areas managed for multiple uses (including conservation) are GAP 3. Private lands or areas with no known protection mandate are depicted as GAP Status Code 4.
USGS integrates data from a network of state and federal stewards, along with national non-governmental organization lands
USGS integrates data from a network of state and federal stewards, along with national non-governmental organization lands (for example, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Ducks Unlimited) and conservation easements (from the National Conservation Easement Database, NCED) to produce PAD-US and related globally relevant products (for example, submissions to the World Database for Protected Areas, WDPA).