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Public-images-osm logo.svg boundary = protected_area
Yatsuhigata 04x4720s.jpg
Used to mark boundaries of protected areas including national parks, wilderness, marine protection areas, heritage sites and other, similar areas. Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Group: Boundaries
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesshould not be used on waysmay be used on areasmay be used on relations
Useful combination
See also
Status: de facto


boundary=protected_area is used to mark boundaries of protected areas including national parks, wilderness, marine protection areas, heritage sites and other, similar areas.

See:  Protected area

+ protect_class=1a to 99
+ protection_title=...

How to Map

Protected Area Classification with protect_class=*

The nature of the protected area is identified using protect_class=1 to 99 which are divided into four categories:

  • Conservation Land, derived from international definitions (1-6)
  • Other types of nature conservation (7, 97-99),
  • Resources conservation for important single resources(11-19) and
  • Social conservation for community and architecture (21-29).

Note that values 7-99 are not based on outside definitions and were invented for OSM.

The tables "Protect classes for various countries" below, provide guidance on the use of protect_class in specific countries.

Note that several of the values were proposed but have been very rarely used (for example, 11, 15, 16, and 26).

In some cases other tags are more common: boundary=national_park instead of 2, and boundary=aboriginal_lands instead of 24.

Nature Protected Area

Protected nature and landscape in ecosystem context, including promoted culture habits. Switch to the table of countries >>

Main Protected Area[1] Categories
Class Description Examples Rendering in
protect_class=1a Strict Nature Reserve (IUCN Category Ia)[1]: "...strictly set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring." (IUCN definition)

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protect_class=1b or protect_class=1 Wilderness Area (IUCN Category Ib): "...usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence, without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition." (IUCN definition)

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protect_class=2 National Park (IUCN Category II): "Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, species and ecosystems... which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities." (IUCN definition)

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protect_class=3 Natural Monument or Feature (IUCN Category III): "...protect a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, submarine cavern, geological feature such as a cave or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value." Cultural and archaeological important (IUCN definition)

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protect_class=4 Habitat/Species Management Area (IUCN Category IV): "...aim to protect particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority. Many category IV protected areas will need regular, active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats, but this is not a requirement..." (IUCN definition)

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protect_class=5 Protected Landscape/Seascape (IUCN Category V): "...area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values." (IUCN definition)

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protect_class=6 Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources (IUCN Category VI): "...conserve ecosystems and habitats, together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large, with most of the area in a natural condition, where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims of the area." (IUCN definition)

For small areas and single-value-protection see also resources-protected-area: protect_class=11 to 19.

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Other Nature Protected Area Categories
Class Description* Examples Rendering in
protect_class=7 nature-feature area: similar to 4. but without IUCN-level.

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value:

Some habitats are protected by local- or district-law: areas to protect one specie, special cover of vegetation, geological site, ... (not rendered)
protect_class=97 A protected area protected by international continental agreements. They often cover sites already protected by national law. Used for the following conventions and treaties:

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value:

(not rendered)
protect_class=98 A protected area protected by intercontinental treaties or conventions. They often cover sites already protected by national law. Does not include a cross-border national park (which would be tagged protect_class=2). Used for the following conventions and treaties:

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value:

(not rendered)
protect_class=99 other continental or international, not yet classified. (not rendered) protect_class=99


Protected areas with a focus on single natural resources, including human living space itself, because of an important natural material or characteristic. Mostly appointed on community level. Switch to the table of countries.

Class Description Rendering in
protect_class=12 water: water protection area, fresh water, drinking water, springs, ...

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value:

(not rendered)
protect_class=14 species: no fishing, protected for fishery, protected for hunting, plants, ...

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value:

(not rendered)
protect_class=15 location condition: floodwater retention area, protection forest, grazing land, ...

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value:

(not rendered)
protect_class=19 other national, This tag was used by an import in Poland for "Użytek ekologiczny" areas
  • Instead of this value, consider using protect_class=6 for areas protected for "sustainable use of natural resources"
(not rendered)


Important social interests. Visualize sociopolitical assets. Switch to the table of countries.

Class Description Rendering in
protect_class=21 Community life: religious, sacred areas, gathering places, recreation (this sense of "recreation" has given rise to value 21 being assigned to state parks in New York, USA)

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value.

(not rendered)

For example Jones Beach State Park

protect_class=22 Cultural assets (cultural assets and - efforts, districts historical heritage, monument conservation):
protection of sites with special architecture or historic interest, designed and created intentionally by people: urban layout, buildings, landscape, gardens, art-goods, ...

More commonly tagged with: historic=* and/or heritage=*

(not rendered)
protect_class=24 Political protection:

Consider using plain-English tagging alternatives instead of this value.

(not rendered)
protect_class=27 Currently used only for Norwegian "Friluftsområde", a category of outdoor space accessible made publicly accessible by Norwegian law. (not rendered)

Discouraged, legacy, and unused values of protect_class=*

Legacy values of protect_class=*
Class Description* Rendering in
protect_class=11 soil: crop yield, erosion protection, ... [This tag was proposed but never used] (not rendered)
protect_class=13 climate and -air: gasper supply/cold air, ... [This tag was proposed but never used. See boundary=low_emission_zone (LEZ).] (not rendered)
protect_class=16 longtime hazard area: contamination, earth-moving area, "problem sites" ... Formally deprecated by hazard=*. (not rendered)
23 Protection in favor of economics: special economic zones. Formally deprecated by boundary=special_economic_zone. (not rendered)
25 Military areas: military refuges, test area, ...

See military=*, landuse=military and Map_Features#Military instead. Formally deprecated by landuse=military and military=*.

(not rendered)
26 Historic: "for colonial-era entities and protectorates". More commonly tagged with: historic=* and/or heritage=*. (not rendered)
29 other social, not yet classified for ID 21 to 28. [This tag was proposed but has never been used] (not rendered)

Additional keys

For background-information of the objects.

Key Value Description Usage
protection_title=* wildlife sanctuary, Zapovidnyk, National Park, Special Protected Area, World Heritage Convention, Aesthetic Forest, Heritage River, Indian Reserve, ... Title or type of protection, not the proper name. The national designation, the formal title or type of protection (see level-table).

Important! Strongly recommended

name=* proper name the common name of the area
ref=* <reference number> Use the ref=* to hold an external ID number for the area
opening_hours=* Dec 20-Jan 06 00:00-24:00
or "sunrise to sunset", etc.
The dates or times when the protected area is open to the public
website=* http://www.nameoftheasite.com appropriate website for further information about the protected area
operator=* The institution or individual which operates the protected area
governance_type=* government_managed / government / private / social_group The governance describes the decision-making structure of a site. Also see operator=*, site_ownership=*
site_ownership=* public, international, national, federal, province, state, regional, county, municipal, community, private
related_law=* Law 4/1994, BNatSchG: § 23, ... The title of the edict or legal text which establishes or regulates the area.
start_date=* yyyy-mm-dd The date the protected area was created. Also see end_date=*.
protection_object=* aborigine, art, cave, heritage, habitat, nature, recreation, soil, water, etc ... The subject or object of the protected area, that is, the feature that is protected.
period=* 1200-1500 or Late Middle Ages to give the time when a historic area was being used. Use the name of the period or a range of years.
ethnic_group=* the name of the ethnic (indigenous, aboriginal) group Used in connection with political protection, protect_class=24 in Colombia


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designed categories of nature conservation management, which communicate "intensities of engagement". On a technical view, the fact of protection doesn't fit with the surface or the objects of an area, it just looks for some structures for bordering (e.g. on initial areas, inhabitants may go on with their usual activities for a longer period of transition). 'Protection is no landuse', it is a political agreement. So, the already existing key "boundary" is a suitable key. As associated value, "protected_area" was newly established, because it is clear and emphasizes "the precaution" and "the limitation". Limitations don't emerge only by nature conservation. Further reasons are socio-political and include economic requests, for taking care of resources. Areas also might receive awards, which require a consideration. Those matters are also taken up here.

In order to allow the use of a familiar country-specific ordering system for easy handling (mapping and rendering) the multiplicity of "nomenclatures" was assigned to a few numbers of IDs ("protect_class"). Similarly managed or intended protected areas should use the same value. IDs are short and more friendly; it is easier to conflate an abstract code with "my" local name, than a foreign name ("Природна ..." = 3). The protectedplanet website by the IUCN allows us to determine many types of national nature-conservation areas.

So, the first 'class 1-9' mostly align with these IUCN-categories and cover the section nature-conservation (and that in a holistic view, inclusive culture aspects like special kinds of farming). But for the sake of independence, don't think of the classes as "coupled" with the IUCN categories. The '10s-block' signifies areas to conserve resources ("economic view") - the basic ones are soil and minerals, water, air, species and for some locations, certain features or facilities. The '20s-block' signifies socio-political interests. Finally the '90s-block' signifies awards and supra-regional, and global categories.

Protect_class 1 to 6 are from IUCN Protected Areas Categories System (2009). To associate the correct class, see the IUCN-database at protectedplanet.net, section "IUCN Category". The intention is for protect_class=* 1 to 6 fit with the IUCN-level I to VI, class 19 to IUCN -999. whereas protect_class 7 more correctly associates to additional sites which otherwise would go untagged. There are no protected areas for the United Kingdom in the WDPA (see WDPA-FAQ). Sites by international convention belong into protect_class 97 to 99.

See also

  • leisure=nature_reserve - Like a national park, a nature reserve is about protecting wildlife while simultaneously providing for human recreation (limited, low-impact activities like hiking or wildlife observation). The distinction is not always clear, some suggestions are: nature reserves are smaller areas than national parks, national parks are administrativly-defined boundaries around larger areas (and may in fact include towns or even cities) whereas nature reserves are more evident on-the-ground (more "natural," few human encroachments).


There are governments, keeping a habitat system:


  1. 1.0 1.1 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)[1]
  2. Per [2], "The Natura 2000 sites are [...] considered as the contribution from the EU member States to the Emerald Network"
  3. Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA)
  4. The Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region
  5. Also known as the "Convention on Wetlands"
  6. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  7. World Heritage Convention