Talk:United States/Public lands

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National Wildlife Refuges

There is no mention of National Wildlife Refuges in this project. If added, would the entry use the boundary:type=protected_area key as does the entry for National Park? (unsigned comment added 03:27, 29 October 2018 by AlaskaDave)

The ones in my neck of the woods have the following tags: boundary=protected_area, leisure=nature_reserve, protect_class=4, ownership=national, protection_title=National Wildlife Refuge. (Note that it's boundary, not boundary:type.) --Adam Schneider (talk) 17:03, 29 October 2018 (UTC)
This tagging scheme is now included on the Page. Stevea (talk) 16:54, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Just wanted to add that we should also include Research Refuge (as in the Patuxent Research Refuge) to the list. I think it follows the National Wildlife Refuge closely. --ElliottPlack (talk) 05:09, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

Tagging for the renderer

This part of the first section should be either deleted or modified. As we aren't suppose to tag for the rendering. Instead, we tag based on what the correct tag is. "In the long term these should be tagged as boundary=protected_area, but because that tag isn't rendered yet the convention boundary=national_park + boundary:type=protected_area is used instead." I am going to change it if know one else does. Although id like some feedback on it first. (unsigned comment added 18:10, 26 January 2019 by Adamant1).

This described an existing tagging scheme ("being descriptive") as it described a transiton from an existing (older) method to a newer, better method to tag that doesn't tag for the render ("being prescriptive," but correctly). The unsigned comment is now moot, having no practical significance. Stevea (talk) 16:58, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

Ignore military areas from this scope

Tag military=* selects these data in OSM. While the project acknowledges that military lands (including state militia) are public lands, it hereby excludes them from this domain as "already tagged otherwise." Stevea (talk) 00:58, 23 June 2019 (UTC)


The tables under WikiProject United States Public Lands#State Public Lands have gotten pretty unwieldy even with just a couple states. At the risk of making it more difficult to directly compare tag usage across states, it might be worthwhile to break up the table into ordinary bulleted lists under headings, at least so that others can contribute more easily. Some of the details could also be moved to footnotes if they aren't essential to understanding the tags' definitions. – Minh Nguyễn 💬 19:09, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

I hear you loud and clear, Minh. I was the one who discussed (with Kevin) that these be "table-ized" while I had initially started to "header-ize" the states (with his New York introduction) into various wiki sections (indented headers). So, while I find the table format to be helpful to discern emerging similarity in structure of public lands between states, Kevin finds (please correct me if I'm wrong, Kevin) that placing the data into sections by themselves, state-by-state, would "lose something." How about if we make each state the two tables we have started? This would allow minor differences to emerge, as well as simplify what will likely become unwieldy rather quickly as we add more states to only two tables. I'm open to all sorts of suggestions, and I like yours about moving footnotes, too. (The existing "state-specific Notes" section seems like it was a good idea, perhaps it can remain so for specific state-specific Notes, but further footnotes get broken out into references). Wider comments are appreciated! Stevea (talk) 19:18, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
No rush, truly. Any Contributor could go first: split each table into two single-row tables for each state. For instance, if I went first, I'd break out California from both (existing multi-state) tables into a (hyphen-hyphen) California (hyphen-hyphen) section with two one-row tables, largely as they are now as rows in the "two multi-state tables" now. If Kevin were to go first, he'd do that for the two New York rows of the present tables (in a New York section). Should Minh go next, he might start two new one-row tables for Ohio, in their own (hyphen-hyphen) Ohio (hyphen-hyphen) section. I'm tossing out something a little more solid here. Any could go next, no rush, no pressure to do so. Stevea (talk) 22:33, 1 July 2019 (UTC)
I am taking a crack at revising this article so that it is both more useful to mappers as well as making it easier for users to contribute. I spend a considerable amount of my time mapping public lands so this is a personal interest for me. I will be attempting to consolidate the information in a way that preserves the intent of this article but is concise and to the point. And then, I will add the information for my own state (RI). Wish me luck! ZeLonewolf (talk) 16:57, 7 September 2020 (UTC)
Good luck, ZeLonewolf! I appreciate your efforts. Stevea (talk) 17:05, 7 September 2020 (UTC)
Even less than a day later, I am impressed with ZeLonewolf's improvements, added clarity and better structure. Please, keep up the great work! Stevea (talk) 22:44, 7 September 2020 (UTC)

Philosophical Discussions

The text below was culled from earlier editions of this page in order to have better clarity and brevity for mappers looking for guidance. However, this discussion still has value, so I am including it below for posterity.

("Human recreation" is simply the first dimension along which the project begins to explore and document). These include lands that house government offices, public hospitals, developmental centers, prisons, universities, colleges, schools, research facilities, military acadamies, space launch sites, some sewage treatment properties, etc. A complicating factor are 'multiple use' facilities (such as a University Nature Preserve or backcountry parcels owned by a College of Environmental Science and Forestry), as many are public lands which can offer recreation, but also have other purposes. More discussion is needed to refine the "Scope."

Except for actual National Parks, many (not all) public lands might be tagged boundary=protected_area over the longer term. (Though, Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management areas leased for gas and oil extraction, for example, aren't protected areas. These might be tagged landuse=industrial during the lease). As boundary=protected_area isn't fully rendered and boundary=national_park is, boundary=national_park and sometimes protect_class=* emerged on many of these areas; boundary=national_park should be removed (or changed to boundary=protected_area) unless the land is specifically a national or state park. Much public lands data have been imported, some are lower quality and tagging has been inconsistent. This project is an effort to harmonize these. There are many "broken (multi)polygons" (inconsistent, broken relations, bad members, wrong roles on members...) which may partly-accurately describe such lands, these need to be improved/corrected, preferably with tagging schemes documented here.

Some lands managed by Non-Government Organizations (such as a local or regional Land Trust or a national-influence non-profit organization) may seem like public lands because they have public access (sometimes for leisure / recreation) but are not, in fact, "public lands" because of their ownership. This section is emerging to denote these.

In this wiki, the term "public land" is used to refer to any land owned (fee simple title) and managed by a government (federal, state, county, township, municipal, ward or neighborhood), regardless of its mode of acquisition or managing agency. It might or might not (this remains unclear) exclude lands administered by a federal agency under easements, leases, contracts, or other arrangements. This includes (along with much more) the usage of the phrase "public land" as it refers to lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management defined in 43 U.S.C. §1702(e).

The Department of Defense (DOD) is the fifth-largest land management agency, with lands consisting of military bases, training ranges and more. These five agencies together manage about 97% of all federal land. Numerous other federal agencies — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Post Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Energy and many more — administer the remaining additional federal lands.

The global protect_class article

The table at Tag:boundary=protected_area#Protect_classes_for_various_countries has an unwieldy United States row. Would it be appropriate to replace that row with a link to this page (once sufficiently complete)? ZeLonewolf (talk) 01:32, 9 September 2020 (UTC)

Today, I prefer keeping both as is, while I reiterate that I "track" in Public Lands what I find there while also using Public Lands as a springboard to a better future. (Sounds complicated). Public Lands remains an early-to-middle draft and I don't want to "be" authoritative like that (yet). At a certain point, with "enough" consensus, do these sync up? Yes (I think so), as long as a wide community understands what it means when we "turn out the lights" on something forever. It's early to go there now. Stevea (talk) 01:56, 12 September 2020 (UTC)

Open Topics

Nature Conservancy Fee Land

The original article discusses Nature Conservancy Fee Lands. What is this, and does it need to be considered differently from the existing NGO table that already includes TNC? ZeLonewolf (talk) 00:57, 9 September 2020 (UTC)

I personally do not know the distinction but it shouldn't be difficult to discover. If I had to guess, it may mean "fee simple" in how the land is held (in title). Stevea (talk) 17:17, 12 September 2020 (UTC)

national_park vs protected_area

Here is my understanding of the situation:

  1. boundary=national_park came first, and it exists in many places
  2. boundary=protected_area includes the concept covered by national_park, and is more granular than national_park (as it includes all of the other protect_class=* categories).
  3. Both cannot exist simultaneously
  4. they both render exactly the same (at least in Carto)
  5. We would probably rather boundary=national_park be deprecated in favor of protected_area, but it's in too entrenched to realistically advocate for -- and nobody wants to raise their hand to call for its deprecation -- so we live with both.

My sense from recent edits is that we're trying to actively minimize the use of boundary=national_park. If so, I agree with that (along with my secret desire for national_park to die). Should this article discourage the use of national_park at the state level or attempt to mirror how it's used nationally?

Is there ever a situation where boundary=protected_area + protect_class=2 is called for?

Given the long-standing lack of participation in this page up until recent days, I'm not sure it would be harmful to be a bit prescriptive if there is a clear case to be made for consistency. In general I think it's best to put the best ideas on paper as a starting point and let the community curate it into a consensus. I would not object to keeping boundary=national_park around because of its inertia but I think it would be helpful to layout some intent and rationale around its use.

Also, I'm interested to understand what discussion history may exist that I'm not aware of on the the topic of boundary=national_park. ZeLonewolf (talk) 22:08, 9 September 2020 (UTC)

This skates the edge of federal / state and prescriptive / descriptive (respectively) which is being curated by this wiki. The wiki hints that boundary=national_park on state parks shouldn't continue (into the future). OK, that implies the many (how many?) boundary=national_park which exist now might or should deprecate. Slow down. It's not so much what Discussion (or talk-us) history there is, although I've seen many years worth, I haven't seen "everything" (I don't Slack, for example). It's more about what we want, think we want, discuss and eventually achieve. I can agree with an eventual deprecation of boundary=national_park as I see boundary=protected_area emerge with more clarity (including rendering, protect_class=24 rendering as aborginal_lands is an example). Life cycle of the old and new. We can (and will) transition, it's early days in that but the gears do turn. Good growth here this week. Stevea (talk) 02:08, 12 September 2020 (UTC)
Also, "both cannot exist simultaneously" isn't strictly true, more like "it's muddled as long as both are; let's make up our minds about which is preferred and/or correct." It looks like both of us are politely raising our hands to "go ahead" with suggesting that boundary=protected_area + protect_class=2 supercede boundary=national_park. I'm in no rush to do so, but if the call is to suggest that we do that, I'll raise my hand to go along, but I would like to parcipate in the discussion as to how and how fast. I think that's about what we are doing. Stevea (talk) 03:10, 12 September 2020 (UTC)
I would draw your attention to this discussion on an aside but related note. The use of protect_class values outside of the IUCN defined levels seems poorly established. I am led to believe that those additional levels >6 were made up out of thin air by a wiki editor. ZeLonewolf (talk) 02:25, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
There, you say "protect_class=12 does not render, though most other protect_class values do render." I respectfully disagree that "MOST other protect_class values do render." SOME do, most don't. I was delighted to see 24 render, though when I tried to prompt some discussion about what should happen with identical rendering for aboriginal_lands (do we allow both to exist simultaneously — the status quo — continuing confusion). Or, might there be some systematic method to deprecate one over the other? We'll have a similar discussion about national_park, someday. I hope that goes SOMEwhere, rather than nowhere, like 24/aboriginal_lands, it continues to disappoint me that it remains unresolved.
Thanks for correction: current rendering per source code inspection[1] shows protect_class covers 1a, 1b, 1-6, and 24. protect_class=24 and boundary=aboriginal_lands appear to have identical render. ZeLonewolf (talk) 16:26, 14 September 2020 (UTC)
I'm beginning to believe a longer-term understanding of "what is the plan by renderer authors to 'support' protect_class?" is required. But in my experience of OSM, renderer authors come along and implement specific renderings when "tags become well-established and settle down." Sure, we make some forward movement towards that here and now, yet it seems there's a long way to go before I believe I'll see boundary=protected_area + protect_class=2 render "as well as" boundary=national_park + area=yes (as a "tagging for the renderer"). There is a lot more that might be said here, I'll stop with this. Stevea (talk) 04:43, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
I don't believe that's correct - from my cursory investigation, boundary=protected_area + protect_class=2 and boundary=national_park + area=yes have identical rendering (at least in Carto). ZeLonewolf (talk) 16:32, 14 September 2020 (UTC)
Thank you, I stand corrected. In my mind, it was that area=yes is required with boundary=national_park (but not b=pa + pc=2) that threw me about that — easy to be confused. Nonetheless, the boundary=protected_area Discussion page now suggests that the Discussion page at protect_class=* take up the issues surrounding rendering additional values for that latter tag. We should take the primary issues from here to there, perhaps linking back here. A primary Carto author is paying attention, let's strike while the iron is hot. Stevea (talk) 16:43, 14 September 2020 (UTC)
I recommend that we proceed in this wiki page with the notion that boundary=protected_area and protect_class=2 is preferred over national_park and be fully aligned with protect_class, at least with regards to categories 1a through 6. We can say something like "we used to use national_park, however, protected_area has emerged more recently as a more granular way to tag public lands". If you'll let me get away with it, I would even advocate for listing national_park under "Legacy (discourage} tagging". ZeLonewolf (talk) 03:49, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
I don't believe you would be the first to suggest this (did ke9tv and I discuss this in email? I can't find it) but I tend to agree. However, this wouldn't be terrible, as "IUCN 1a through 6 are a pretty good idea," while the same plus a reasonably-sane expansion of those IS something that's allowed with OSM's plastic tagging ability, though while not quite "pretty good" I think I might go so far as at least "good." I hear you say "poorly established," yet it is what we have and without a shiny new replacement with very well-articulated reasoning, I think we'll have to live with it for now. It isn't terrible and it is getting more widely suggested that some of these values get "stretched" a bit. For example, ke9tv has a Diary entry page saying protect_class=21 might be used for state parks. That's wobbly, but I myself might have even set one or two of those in California, and it isn't full-on insanity to do so, in my opinion.
I agree with you that fully embracing protect_class=2 for national park is now "seeing its sunrise," (at least in the USA, as we have expressed and do express it here). Yes, we'll have the vestiges of boundary=national_park for some time, but I'll "keep my hand in the air" that I believe it can now begin a period of early deprecation. I don't think anybody is "letting anybody get away with anything" here, we're simply conscientious volunteers reaching some reasonable consensus. As we do so and it gets wider, well, it gets wider. If somebody slams on the brakes, I continue to listen, I assume you'll do the same. Slow and steady ahead. Stevea (talk) 04:28, 13 September 2020 (UTC)

National Park Service National Monument *and* Historic Shrine

First, I really appreciate the hard work here by Stevea, Zelonewolf, and others! This is a well written guide. Second, I've imported county, state, and national public lands in Maryland and have a deep interest in those topics.

One new use case for the Tagging of National Park Service (NPS) Areas table is National Monument and Historic Shrine, such as the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

I suggest including this as a bullet with the second row in the table (with National Monument). Fort McHenry in particular is treated like a park by locals and visitors, so I think it would follow the class 3, park, and monument option but that isn't necessarily applicable to all of these. --ElliottPlack (talk) 19:35, 18 November 2020 (UTC)

Hey there. Thanks for the kind words! We had fun collaborating on this project, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that we nearly came to blows on some of the finer points of public land tagging. I added the Historic Shrine variant to that cell in the table, that seems like a good fit there. On further look though, I think protect_class=3 is wrong for that particular use case, as that is supposed to be for a natural monument, not a national monument -- important distinction. But some national monuments are basically set-asides under the Antiquities Act versus e.g. a physical stone monument. I'll let Steve chime in but offhand I actually think protect_class=* should not be applied in that case. We probably need some better documentation in that table spot. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 19:57, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
Thanks for the comments! I see the edit and understand the distinction between national and natural. Fort McHenry does seem like a better fit for the protect_class=22. I recall that the whole protect_class=* was still new and a moving target when I did the 2014 import. I see it is more refined now. I seem to recall there being some debate then as to whether cultural protections should be tagged at all. --ElliottPlack (talk) 20:06, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
Yup - in general, I'm opposed to using protect_class=* values above 6. They don't render, and they don't have real definitions. Also, I don't think that things that aren't a  protected area should be tagged with boundary=protected_area. None of this is formal doctrine, but it's a concept that we're driving to, specifically with our draft park boundary proposal.
In order to get there, I've got a couple prerequisite proposals in the pipeline, starting with Proposed_features/Special_economic_zone, which is currently in a voting state, to be followed by Proposed_features/hazard. Those two proposals aim to deprecate two of the protect_class values that really don't fit as a "protected area". Also of note is Proposal:_Named_protection_class_for_protected_areas which proposes to eliminate the cryptic protect_class numbering scheme entirely! --ZeLonewolf (talk) 20:38, 18 November 2020 (UTC)

National Park Service, National Historical Park

Another item to consider for Tagging of National Park Service (NPS) Areas table is National Historical Park. We have one of these in Maryland/DC called the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

I think this would fall under the National Park row, but perhaps as a class 2a? The relation for the C&O NHP is currently tagged as a boundary=national_park. --ElliottPlack (talk) 19:45, 18 November 2020 (UTC)

2a isn't a valid protect_class=* value, but I'm thinking it should just get added to the same cell as National Historic Site? --ZeLonewolf (talk) 19:59, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
2a was just me making that up as a differentiator, sorry. The National Historic Site cell seems appropriate, though I think there is a distinction between a park and a site. Let's make that distinction in the Other Tags cell and change the text "depending on type of site" to "depending on type of site or park".
I did some reading and it turns out there are quite a few National Historic Parks in the US. Since all NHPs are automatically NRHP registered, the assignment of historic=yes and heritage=2 is appropriate just like with National Historic Sites. Also, since they're all in the NRHP, heritage:operator=nrhp should be included too. --ElliottPlack (talk) 20:58, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
I think that the C&O is correctly tagged as boundary=national_park, given its use. protect_class=2 probably misses the mark because of the focus on natural protection, rather than historic protection. However, "site" seems insufficient, because it is hard to imagine a "site" being 180 miles long (though the park may include multiple historic sites along its length). This is a good example to me of how the tagging descriptions must include an assessment of how the land is used, in addition to how it is categorized by law. If you were feeling completionist with the C&O, you might consider the addition of operator=Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Association since they have the formal relationship with the NPS to manage the day to day facilities of the park outside the NPS interpretive centers. --Phidauex (talk) 22:20, 28 December 2020 (UTC)

Lands for National Scenic Trails (and other linear or route items)

Another item to consider for Tagging of National Park Service (NPS) Areas table is land holdings for a National Scenic Trail or other linear/route-based feature. Although the trail itself is a route, the land it runs on is sometimes federally held, protected land.

Take the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Maryland for instance. I imported the land holdings in 2014 and tagged it as a boundary=national_park per the Maryland State Parks import. This seems like it might be more of a class 5, based on the other items in that class. Thoughts? --ElliottPlack (talk) 19:58, 18 November 2020 (UTC)

It would have to be 5 or 2; I added this with the suggested 5 "protected landscape" as suggested. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 00:34, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

NPS Park, but not National Park

In Maryland we have a peculiar set of National Park Service owned and managed parks that are not "national parks". Here's a list of each and how they're currently tagged.

I looked around the US but haven't found many other cases of NPS managed parks that don't fall into one of the other categories (other than the special case of the federal district of Washington, D.C., where many of the parks are managed by the National Park Service (see National Capital Parks on Wikipedia)).

Catoctin, in particular, was almost renamed as a National Recreation Area, but the bill did not pass in the House. Therefore, these parks might fit in the box with National Recreation Area. On the other hand, some of them are smaller parks with a recreational focus such that leisure=park might be the way to go. In either case, boundary=national_park doesn't seem right. --ElliottPlack (talk) 05:11, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

United State Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service lands

I wanted to try applying the criteria to the relation Beltsville Agricultural Research Center but we don't yet have a Federal Lands section for USDA, ARS lands (we do have USDA, Forest Service).

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) was established on November 2, 1953, pursuant to authority vested in the Secretary of Agriculture by 5 U.S.C. 301 and Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1953, and other authorities.

ARS is the principal in-house research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Congress first authorized Federally supported agricultural research in the Organic Act of 1862, which established what is now USDA. That statute directed the Commissioner of Agriculture “to acquire and preserve in his department all information he can obtain by means of books and correspondence, and by practical and scientific experiments.” The scope of USDA’s agricultural research programs has been expanded and extended more than 60 times since the Department was created.

Source PDF

USDA ARS manages a few federal areas, such as the Beltsville site and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility.

How should we tag these?

Interesting side note: Part of the Beltsville site is leased to the US Secret Service. They conduct training there on a curious little tactical campus that includes a mock airplane for VIP rescue operations. Here it is on the map. --ElliottPlack (talk) 05:43, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

The use of protect_class=22 for federal lands

Given the lack of definition surrounding protect_class=*, I think we should not recommend the use of bespoke values (those outside of 1a, 1b, and 2-6) when assigning protect_class=* values. In particular, we should remove entries for 22 and 24 from the federal lands tables where they still exist. It's fine if state users want to use and document these values, but I think we should not encourage their use for national lands given the growing consensus against the use of the non-rendering protect_class=* values. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 19:17, 23 November 2020 (UTC)

Open Space Lands - Municipal/County

Hi, I think we need more granularity in the description of Open Space public lands, which seem to be the topic of a low-speed edit conflict in the western US. The lands in question are typically owned by a municipality or county, but are not "manicured urban parks" in the manner of leisure=park (on this point, most agree), or designated for any particular practical task such as water treatment. I have the most personal knowledge of such lands in CO and WY, but the commonly used vernacular around "open space lands" is fairly consistent in the mountain-west US. The lands would fit under the County or Municipal headers of the current page, but don't easily fall into the current descriptions or tagging guidelines.

The purpose of the lands, as stated by the owners, includes such wide ranging topics as:

  • Preserving attractive viewsheds
  • Wildlife migration corridors (contiguous fence-less land, "chains" of wetlands for migratory birds, etc.)
  • Sensitive species protections (nesting raptors)
  • Preserving "local character" by allowing for agriculture or ranching in an area not normally commercially suited to it
  • Human-powered transportation corridors (commuter cycleways)
  • Developed human recreation (picnic spots, maintained hiking trails, dog parks, swimming areas, boating piers, maintained mountain bike trails, etc.)
  • Undeveloped human recreation (backcountry skiing, rock climbing)
  • Watershed protection
  • Simple buffering to prevent development

I am concerned that the currently recommended protect_class=5 or leisure=park does not seem to adequately describe the wide ranging uses of these lands, and frequently leisure=nature_reserve and landuse=recreation_ground are removed from the areas since the area does not meet the strict definition of those tags. This seems to leave the lands in a gap between tags that either requires compromising on some tag definitions by specifying a protect_class AND either landuse=recreation_ground for more recreation-focused areas or leisure=nature_reserve for more natural-focused areas.

One challenge is that these lands are rarely dedicated in a clear manner - they are often simply purchased when the city or county has a shot at buying some land, and then it gets gradually absorbed into some broader land use master plan where the "primary" use of the land emerges over time, rather than being set by statute at the time of the purchase.


Horsetooth Mountain Open Space

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks - Marshall Mesa and South Boulder areas

My initial recommendation would be to add a description of Open Space lands to the main page (describing their contrast to State and National Parks, their "fluid" usage patterns, and the fact that they are most likely Municipal or County, but not in the context of urban parks or specific-use properties like watershed protections or treatment plants), along with tagging recommendations. The uncertain part to me is what the recommendation should be - typically a protect_class, since they are "protected", but they should also include a more descriptive leisure or landuse tag based on use. Thoughts? --Phidauex (talk) 21:58, 28 December 2020 (UTC)

I agree that we're lacking in adequate (and renderable) tagging for these types of areas. You've pretty much summed up what we're trying to solve with the park boundary proposal. Given the lack of "good" options, I usually resort to either protect_class=5 or protect_class=6 for lack of better options. Certainly they aren't leisure=park or landuse=recreation_ground. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 22:57, 28 December 2020 (UTC)
Ok, your proposal makes sense - we need an undifferentiated "protected area" as a catch-all from which you can get more specific (or don't get more specific if a descriptive tag doesn't exist). Simply using boundary=protected_area with no protect_class is elegant because it is backward compatible, and you could add a protect_class if one was appropriate. It would prevent us from having to do what we do now for Open Space lands which is to pick the "Least Worst" combo of protect_class 5/6, leisure=nature_reserve and landuse=recreation_ground. I do slightly object to the idea that none of these spaces can be landuse=recreation_ground as the current definition is very Commonwealth-centric. If the Australians can have barrel racing, why can't we have rock climbing? But either way your proposal would still help because you could tag those specific areas within the boundary, rather than "all or nothing" as is the status quo.
Can I suggest the proposal be updated to include addressing the Open Space "category" specifically? A very quick Overpass query identifies about 800 "<something> Open Space" in the western US, many of which fall exactly into this vague intermediate category. They are strongly clustered around Denver Metro (nearly a third of all cases), Albuquerque/Santa Fe, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, which probably says something interesting about the land use planning community, but may also explain why some people are very familiar with the terminology, and others have never heard of it before. EDIT: Looking at the whole US, Connecticut is the other big hotspot outside the West. --Phidauex (talk) 23:53, 28 December 2020 (UTC)
Done, see edit. I consider this largely a state-to-state terminology difference - in Rhode Island we would refer to these areas as "management areas", but it's the same thing. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 00:07, 29 December 2020 (UTC)

Addition: Overpass query for finding lands named "Open Space":

try it yourself in overpass-turbo
// Find all ways and relations that contain the name "Open Space" in the US
{{geocodeArea:United States of America}}->.searchArea;
  way(area.searchArea)[~"name"~"Open Space"];
  rel(area.searchArea)[~"name"~"Open Space"];
out body;
out skel qt;

Fully-qualified organization names

This article consistently gives examples of operator=* and owner=* set to fully-qualified organization names, such as United States Department of Interior, National Park Service for the National Park Service. However, the name of the organization is simply "National Park Service"; the Department of the Interior is the name of the parent organization. Parent organizations are often named alongside the organization in question, but that alone does not require us to include the full organizational structure in the tag value. I think this article should recommend only the simpler common name of the agency alongside a corresponding Wikidata tag.

In the past, there might have been an argument for putting as much detail as possible in the freeform tag to avoid ambiguity. Someone fashioning an Overpass query had no choice but to match on substrings of operator=*. If every mapper used the fully qualified value United States Department of Interior, National Park Service, then the query might not have to be additionally filtered to features in "United States", improving performance. However, it was never a given that mappers would fully qualify the organization name, nor that they would do so consistently. Parent-child order is typically found in bibliography (MLA, APA), where it helps with sorting, but non-academics would be prone to arranging the organizations in the opposite order, like in an address. There are situations where no consistency is possible anyways. For example, the National Park Service is known as Servicio de Parques Nacionales in Puerto Rico; imposing the use of English there would violate the on-the-ground rule and may hurt OSM's traction among locals.

Beyond public lands, insisting on additional organizational detail in owner=* and operator=* can present logistical problems at a local level, where reorganizations are more common. A POI may be operated by a state executive agency that passes from one commission to another depending on the gubernatorial administration. Even though the POI itself hasn't changed hands, each occurrence of the operator=* tag would still need to be updated. OSM doesn't have a robust process to track and respond to such changes. In fact, I know of no other domain in OSM where fully qualified owner=* and operator=* tags are recommended, not even heritage:operator=*, so if anything, their presence on public lands would surprise data consumers.

Now that operator:wikidata=* and owner:wikidata=* have become well-established, these keys are a better way to clarify the intent to mappers, editors, and data consumers alike. Wikidata has a separate QID for each organization that shares the same name, yet the a given QID can refer to the same organization regardless of the local language. Wikidata relieves mappers of the need to fully qualify any organization name beyond its common name. For example, d:Q308439 and d:Q18151151 contain parent organization properties that a data consumer such as Sophox (or a more ad-hoc system) could recursively follow to construct a fully qualified bibliographic reference, if necessary.

 – Minh Nguyễn 💬 20:48, 30 April 2021 (UTC)

I concur with Minh's comments, specifically concerning using the full name, United Stated Dept of Interior, National Park Service. This is unnecessary and overly verbose. I'd go one step further and say that some acronyms are obvious, like BLM and USFS. --Bradrh (talk) 22:25, 22 August 2021 (UTC)


Wasn't there another page on this subject? Has that been deleted? --Bradrh (talk) 22:04, 22 August 2021 (UTC)

BLM Section

The section on BLM fails the stated goal of making it easier for users to contribute. It is too complicated.
I question the rationale that BLM land does not in general qualify as boundary=protected_area. It is protected in the sense that it is controlled by the government and there are rules and protections in place. Many areas are mixed with grazing, recreation, and petro extraction. How should this be tagged? Go to Moab Utah, there are oil wells interspersed with mtb trails, and there are probably cattle there at times too. There are rules about what kind of vehicles can be on those trails, does that make it 'protected'? Is a mixed use area like what I described really a 'nature_reserve'? Maybe there should be a tag that says public land, mixed use, weak protection.
The main reason to have BLM boundaries mapped in OSM is access. It is similar USFS, it is public land and open to the public. BLM land is open for anyone to walk on. The cases where this is not true are probably extremely rare and well marked. If there is a road it is open to driving on unless it's marked otherwise. There are very few areas that it would make sense to have a lessee noted as operator. A mapper is not going to dig that info up, there are way too many other gaps in OSM data to worry about that. About the only exception would be a large mine or quarry. A rancher has a lease to graze cattle, but it's still open to the public. --Bradrh (talk) 23:27, 22 August 2021 (UTC)

inholdings in National Parks

Please see the discussion I've opened at Talk:Tag:boundary=national_park#inholdings regarding how completely deprecating that tag in favor of "protected area" is somewhat insufficient to show the actual reality. This is somewhat similar to past discussions about National Forest inholdings, but it seems to have never been brought up that such inholdings also exist in National Parks. Revent (talk) 21:15, 14 October 2023 (UTC)