A Resource for the Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US)



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.

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 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.
  • ValidatedThe 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.


What’s new in PAD-US 2.0

PAD-US 2.0 was completed in September 2018 and announced in July 2019. It includes these new and updated elements:

  • A geodatabase feature class structure that now separates ‘Fee’, ‘Easement’, ‘Designation’, ‘Marine’ Areas, and ‘Proclamation’ boundaries, and also includes various ‘Combined’ feature classes (for example: ‘Fee’ + ‘Easement’ + ‘Designation’ + ‘Proclamation’ layers).
  • Best available Federal land and marine waters data from their respective managing agencies
  • Major updates in 30 States and limited additions to 16 others  – see ProtectedLands.net/Data-Stewards for State data status updates.
  • Additional data from national NGOs (The Nature Conservancy’s Fee Lands and Secured Lands, Trust for Public Land’s Conservation Almanac and Ducks Unlimited CARL database) for further state updating.
  • Easement updates from NCED as of February 2018.
  • Attributes – Expanded ‘Category’ domains: ‘Fee’, ‘Easement’, ‘Other’ (leases, agreements), ‘Unknown’, ‘Designation’, ‘Marine Area’ Approved, ‘Proclamation’ or Extent Boundary.
  • A read-to-use downloadable statistics table, summarizing PAD-US 1.4 attributes (PAD-US 2.0 update coming soon) by state and for the nation.
  • Significant improvement in reducing overlaps and slivers particularly among Federal agencies holdings.
  • A full series of downloadable, high quality PDF poster map files for national views (manager, Federal agencies, protection status (‘GAP Status Code’), public access (recreation status) and maps by managing agency for each state.
  • Over 20 PAD-US web services from USGS.
  • This online help system.
  • A new system for tracking the state of each Federal and State data-steward – see summary information at ProtectedLands.net/Data-Stewards.


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.

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.

As shown in the graph below, the PAD-US 2.0 inventory now includes most federal and state lands; however, Tribal lands are not included and many data gaps occur below the state level.  Fortunately, several initiatives are underway to substantially increase completeness.

Data on most urban parks in the U.S. from the Trust for Public Land’s ParkServe project will become available to PAD-US for the next published version. This data will greatly improve completeness for local and regional agency lands in most states that lack those now.

Chart of PAD-US completeness

Above is a generalized summary of PAD-US data completeness at PAD-US 2.0.  A detailed summary of the state of PAD-US data completeness is shown below, last updated in August 2019. Watch for updates to this document on the Federal Lands Workgroup page
Illustration of PAD-US Data Status