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Public-images-osm logo.svg protect_class = 1a
Horoirangi Marine Reserve.jpg
Strict Nature Reserve Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Group: Boundaries
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesshould not be used on waysmay be used on areasshould not be used on relations
Status: de facto


The tag protect_class=1a is added to boundary=protected_area feature to specify that it is a "Strict Nature Reserve" (IUCN Category Ia).

IUCN Category Ia describes lands that are set aside as strict nature reserves. Lands designated under this category are strictly controlled to limit human activity. Where available, mappers should consult an applicable national conservation database to determine which lands are designated with this category.

Category Ia: protected areas that are 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.

— International Union for Conservation of Nature, iucn.org


Examples of IUCN Category Ia Reserves:

Protected Area Categories

The protected area categores in OpenStreetMap were inspired by IUCN protected area categories, or IUCN protected area management categories, the categories used to classify protected areas in a system developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).[1][2]

The IUCN has developed the protected area management categories system to define, record, and classify the wide variety of specific aims and concerns when categorising protected areas and their objectives. In addition to publishing conservation category definitions, IUCN also maintains the Green List, a listing of a small number of conservation areas that are certified by the IUCN for their conservation practices.

The IUCN categorisation method is recognised on a global scale by national governments and international bodies such as the United Nations and the Convention on Biological Diversity.[3]

Unfortunately, the IUCN website appears to be copyright-protected, so the list of protected areas cannot be copied into OpenStreetMap.

Sources of IUCN Category Designations

Below is a non-exhaustive list of sources that mappers can consult when determining what which protect_class=* value to assign:

Country License Source
United States PD U.S. Geological Survey, Science Analytics and Synthesis, Gap Analysis Project (GAP): Protected Areas Database of the United States 2.0

IUCN 75% Rule

Note that the IUCN definitions include the "75% rule", which says that an area may be categorised under one of the IUCN definitions if 75% of the area meets the category definition. This allows for a small amount of non-conservation land to exist within a larger tract, for example, to allow for visitor facilities.

protect_class=* values

Checklist for determining protect_class=* values for conservation areas
Criteria protect_class=*
Human visitation is so strictly controlled that the area is suitable as a reference for scientific study. protect_class=1a
Human visitation is permitted for those prepared for self-reliant travel such as on foot or by boat. The area has no established visitor infrastructure. The area is large enough that a journey to the interior represents a significant undertaking that requires special equipment. protect_class=1b
The area is named a "National Park", or equivalent name in the local language. The area encourages low-impact human visitation and recreation while conserving a special area of national importance. protect_class=2
The area is designated in order to protect a unique or special natural feature. The natural feature is usually part of the name of the protected area. If there is an identifiable natural feature being protected, but is not a National Park, use this value. protect_class=3
The area is designated in order to protect a specific species. The protected area name usually indicates wildlife protection. protect_class=4
Areas which are preserved for conservation, but don't meet any of the criteria for classes 1 to 4 or class 6, should usually be tagged with this class, as a "protected landscape/seascape". protect_class=5
The area is designated in order to protect a natural resource, or some other human use of land including tourism, with a parallel goal of conservation. protect_class=6