Proposed features/conservation

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Proposal status: Obsoleted (inactive)
Proposed by: Timbl
Tagging: landuse=conservation
Applies to: area
Definition: Land protected from development

Rendered as: pale yellowy green?
Drafted on: 2009-01-04


Conservation land is land protected from development.

It is left in more or less a natural state.

It is often maintained to a very limited extent, such as annual mowing to prevent forest growth, removal of invasive species, replanting, or dealing with or preventing erosion.

The public typically, but not always, has access, as it is a valuable recreational resource. (Sometimes the public has no physical way of getting to it, or is not allowed for water protection reasons, safety, etc).

There is often but not always a long-term commitment to preserve the state of conservation land over a long timescale. This is necessary because is is difficult or impossible and very expensive to re-create conservation land. (See protected=perpituity when and if it is proposed)


  • It is very valuable for individuals to be able to find open space for hiking, walking, cross-country skiing, or simply relaxing away from the buzz of the city. Conserved lands are a destination in themselves.
  • In the suburbs, open spaces may be dense enough to be connectible into strings which allow for a long outing. In the Greater Boston area, for example, there are a large number of conservation areas, but the paths between them are not well signposted (as they would be in the UK or Switzerland, for example). The OSM provides a valuable resource for those building up a walk, or training run, from various different parcels.
  • It is very valuable for those studying humankind's effect on the environment to be able to find, measure and do research on areas where it has specifically been minimized.
  • Information on conserved lands is essential in the planning of greenways. Greenways -- chained areas of openspace with public access -- are often a mixture of national and local effort, and OSM can form a common resource in their development.
  • Open space management is an important aspect of government at each scale. Although many governments have databases of openspace resources, the OSM can integrate data from different countries and agencies.

Many conservation areas have no other land use: to tag them as "nature reserve" or "park" would be misleading. In a way the essence of conservation is to limit use to non-damaging visits by the public. (Is it logical to use the landuse tag even though it is a sort of lack of use? Of course, just as one can have access=no. While it is as much a restriction on land use as much as a land use, it certainly belongs in the landuse key.)

Remember that tagging something as landuse=conservation is orthogonal to tagging it with its natural state of woodland, heath, marsh, wetland, and so on. In general you can't deduce the natural state of land from the fact that it is conservation land.

There are many general benefits shared by typical conservation lands. They may provide benefits to humans, to wild animals and pets, and to plants. They provide a habitat. They allow animals to safely move around without human interference. They typically reduce the load on the land. They allowing water to drain into the ground (rather than drains) promoting the water table. They form sound barriers. They reduce light pollution, allowing suburb-dwellers to see a few stars. And so on. So the actual uses of conserved lands are many. The actual profile varies from parcel to parcel, so the landuse=conservation tag covers many things, which it is not practical to individually tag on the map.


In the UK, the National Trust has the power to protect land from development in perpetuity.

In Massachusetts, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) manages a number of conservation lands , as does each town such as the town of Sudbury:

(Note this only lists those owned by the town, not all the ones IN the town).

In Germany, this proposal matches the definition of "Landschaftsschutzgebiet". A tag for this sort of area is currently missing.

Rendering ideas

In the latitude of the examples, open space is often actually a rough green, one might think of the green of open heath, wild grass, ferns (bracken), and so on. Clearly it should be green, as that is one of the most important things about it.

As the fact that is it conservation land does It should be paler than the green used for a forest. It could have more yellow in it to suggest the wildness, and to distance it from the slightly bluey green which is currently used for farmland by some renderers. Yellow is also a color associated with open access land by the Ordnance Survey maps in the UK. Maybe adding a translucent lime-green wash to underlying colors from the natural state would work.

Currently, Osmarender and Mapnik both render conservation land; Mapnik renders it the same as a landuse=common

How is this different from a ...


A park is specifically maintained at a higher standard than conservation land. It may have mown grass, ornamental features, and so on.


A nature reserve has a primary goal of preserving specific species of plants or animals.

What wouldn't you tag landuse=conservation ?

See also


This was proposed while importing the OPENSPACE layer of the Massachusetts GIS data into OSM. There are 34,000 conservation area in the dataset, a large proportion of which deserved landuse=conservation The tag has been associated with features MassGIS marks as PRIM_PURP=C, for example.

The need arose earlier when adding open space to the map by hand.


On talk page

see also