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


PAD-US Vision

A single, continuously-updated geospatial database that allows users to find exact boundaries and essential attribute information for every public park and other protected area in the United States.

This is the vision for PAD-US – the official national inventory of protected areas.

PAD-US includes all areas held in public trust (public lands managed by agencies, preserves owned by nonprofits or private lands protected via conservation easement) in the United States. It serves many types of users and is developed through partnerships with states, among federal agencies and with national nonprofit organizations.

A new report provides an action plan for completing PAD-US by 2020 and explains how the data set serves many different types of users. The report, Completing America’s Inventory of Public Parks and Protected Areas, is available as:

  • An 8 page prospectus, which summarizes the key steps in the action plan – download here (6.9mb PDF) »
  • A 50 page detailed paper which explains how PAD-US data works to meet many users’ needs and provides more information on elements of the action plan – download here (4.1mb PDF) »

These documents were prepared for the U.S. Geological Survey (Gap Analysis) by GreenInfo Network and the Great Basin Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit at Boise State University in a project that was supported in part through an interagency agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and the National Park Service (U.S. Department of the Interior).

The first overall PAD-US vision strategy document, prepared in 2009 and used to guide PAD-US development since, is also still available  – download report, A Map for the Future (PDF, 1.8 mb) »


General Background on PAD-US System

The PAD-US system consists of technology, standards and a collaborative organization:

1.  As technology, PAD-US has been called “the most complex, yet intelligently designed, database of its kind” – it’s a powerful tool for a broad range of applications.  Built with the intention of serving the conservation, outdoor recreation, public health and other user communities, PAD-US uses evolve in unexpected ways (for example, it has recently become part of the Department of the Interior’s National Wildfire Coordinating Group tool kit). PAD-US has been certified as a U.S. Government A-16 data set within the Cadastral theme.  Over time, PAD-US will move from its current “1.0” data structure to a more robust “2.0” structure which will allow for more flexibility in meeting different data users’ needs.  Information on this “2.0” strategy will be posted here during 2016.

2.  As a data standard, PAD-US provides a robust and dynamic framework to coordinate information and people.  This coordination function serves public interest, along with its tangible data products. For example, PAD-US is helping states improve their own data frameworks by providing a consistent standard for core attributes and domain values.

3.  As a product of a collaborative organizations, PAD-US reflects the various perspectives and expertise of contributors and stakeholders.  Recent PAD-US design changes reflect an extensive program of collaboration among federal agencies – USGS Gap Analysis has helped support the FGDC Federal Lands Working Group, which consists of geospatial professionals from land management and other related federal agencies.  This working group tested a revised data model with multiple layers to provide greater flexibility for users and data managers.  Separating features related to federal land ownership from overlapping management designations supports queries and analyses of the most complex protected areas network in the world.  The pilot was successful and plans are underway to implement the model across all levels of government in the new PAD-US 2.0 framework.  In addition, the Federal Lands Working Group documented the translation of source data into the PAD-US schema to power data aggregation scripts that increase the efficiency of updates.  Additional improvements to automate updates are underway.

Learn more about the Federal Lands Working Group (factsheet available) »