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PAD-US Data Manual

For inclusion in PAD-US, data submissions must meet the following requirements:
 - Areas (polygons only) meet the definition of a protected area​.
 - Required attributes are fully assigned​.
 - Spatial data provided or recommended by land management agencies​.
 - All data suitable for distribution in the public domain.

<< Back to PAD-US Data Overview

Definition of a Protected Area - PAD-US is an inventory of marine and terrestrial protected areas that are defined as being:

  • “Dedicated to the preservation of biological diversity and to other natural (including extraction), recreation and 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 public and nonprofit held lands and waters. Most are public lands owned in fee; however, 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 lands in the public interest, compiling “best available” data provided by managing agencies and organizations.  

Federal, State, and non-profit data-stewards and other stakeholders assisted the PAD-US Team with the development of current requirements and continually suggest improvements during the open review periods.

New Projects - Please contact the PAD-US Team (use the PAD-US Communication Tool or email us at if you are beginning protected area data aggregation or complex analysis projects. 

PAD-US Data Dictionary - Attribute definitions, field properties, domain values, and development crosswalks for search by keyword can be downloaded as a spreadsheet containing the following tables.

Table 1. PAD-US attributes and field properties
Table 2. Feature class reference for Combined fields in the PAD-US geodatabase
Table 3. Category domain codes and descriptions
Table 4. Agency Type domain codes and descriptions
Table 5. Agency Name domain codes and descriptions 
Table 6. Agency Name to Agency Type crosswalk
Table 7. Standardized Agency Name and Type crosswalk from source data (Local Manager, Local Owner)
Table 8. Designation Type domain codes and descriptions
Table 9. Standardized Designation Type crosswalk from source data (Local Designation)
Table 10. GAP Status Code domain codes and descriptions  
Table 11. IUCN Category domain and descriptions
Table 12. Categorical GAP Status Code or IUCN Category domain assignments by Designation Type
Table 13. Categorical GAP Status Code for Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by IUCN Category
Table 14. Public Access domain codes and descriptions
Table 15. Categorical Access domain assignment by Designation Type
Table 16. State Name domain codes and descriptions

PAD-US Processing Steps - Contains process steps, supporting documentation, and translation scripts. This download also includes a blank schema, database structure, field properties, domain codes and descriptions. PAD-US Data Download contains links to the latest version of PAD-US in ScienceBase. A file (ZIP) containing PAD-US process steps and a blank schema is available under 'Attached Files'.  

GAP Status Code Assignment - GAP Status Codes are a measure of the conservation type of each parcel based on protection level categories that provide a measure of management intent for the long-term protection of biodiversity. User provided GAP Status Codes are preferred but can be categorically assigned using designation type and a crosswalk created in collaboration with data stewards. The GAP Status Assignment Tool allows Data Stewards to determine GAP Status Code for a protected area. To learn more about the GAP Status Code Assignment process including assumptions, criteria, and methods please access this reference document.  See Table 12 of the PAD-US Data Manual spreadsheet or visit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more information on determining correct GAP Status Codes.

PAD-US Metadata - Document containing PAD-US attribute definitions, process information, version history, purpose, use constraints, accuracy, and other relevant information. PAD-US Data Download contains links to the latest version of PAD-US in ScienceBase. PAD-US metadata (XML) is available under 'Attached Files'. 

Minimum Required Attributes - Can be attributed from source data or assigned in consultation with data steward.

  • Category (Fee, Easement, Designation, etc.) - see table 4 domain
  • Local Owner and/or Manager (Not Standardized) 
  • Local Designation Type (Not Standardized) 
  • Local Name (Not Standardized) 
  • GIS Source (Name of organization, name of geodatabase, name of feature dataset/class)
  • GIS Source Date (Date GIS data was published, accessed, or confirmed unchanged 'yyyy/mm/dd') 

Other Requested Attributes - Preferred attributes that can be added from source data or categorically assigned in consultation with data steward.

  • Owner/Manager Type (Crosswalk from Owner/Manager Name) - see table 5 domain & table 6 crosswalk 
  • Owner/Manager Name (Standardized Local Owner/Manager) - see table 7 crosswalk
  • Designation Type (Standardized Local Designation Type) - see table 7 crosswalk
  • Unit Name (Standardized to Proper Case with acronyms spelled out and designation included)
  • Aggregator Source (Organization name or USGS if aggregator, PAD-US version, feature class, general file name) 
  • GAP Status Code (Conservation measure) - see table 12 for categorical assignment by designation type
  • Public Access (Access measure) - see table 15 categorical assignment by designation type
  • Date of Establishment ('yyyy' only) 

How to Cite Data - U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Gap Analysis Project (GAP), 2024, Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) 4: U.S. Geological Survey data release,

For more information contact the PAD-US Team.