United States/Public lands

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Flag of United States Part of United States mapping project.
Public-images-osm logo.svg
US National park.png
United States tagging conventions for marking boundaries of parks, protected areas and other, similar areas that are reserved for public use and protection.
Group: Boundaries
Useful combination
See also
Status: de facto


United States/Public lands aims to catalog the various categories of public lands in the United States and document best practices for tagging them. These lands cover vast portions of the map: 28% of the United States land area is made up of public lands at the federal level[1]. In addition, there are considerable acreages of state, local, and privately held lands also reserved for public use. By adopting a consistent tagging scheme across all of these lands, OSM can enable new uses for public land data that improve public access and information.

Parks and "park-like" entities, which often logically map well to public lands, are mapped in OSM primarily (perhaps not exclusively) with five tags:

These five tags have been widely used by mappers because they render in the Standard Renderer. Because these tags render differently, their use has varied from place to place. In some cases, choice of tag has been to achieve a certain appearance in the map. This should be avoided as it violates the principal of not tagging for the renderer. In particular, leisure=park is widely misused on areas more properly tagged with boundary=protected_area or leisure=nature_reserve. OSM's leisure=park tag (a smaller, manicured, urban park) conflicts with "park" as used in US English to mean "a large area of land kept in its natural state for public recreational use."[2] In larger, rural parks, vernacular sometimes describes and divides between front country of the park, with entry/parking amenities, restrooms, a visitor center, tourism-specifics like viewpoints, perhaps modest recreation opportunities which attract a majority of visitors and back country, attracting self-sufficient long-distance hikers, campers and backpackers, as amenities (even restrooms or drinking water) may be sparse or non-existent.

Various jurisdictions use different terminology when referring to public lands. A "state forest" in one place might be a "management area" somewhere else. This project aims to harmonize then standardize United States public land tagging across differences in federal, state, local, and NGO terminology. The topics are somewhat complex with many overlapping semantics. Tagging schemes suggested for national lands should be used as guidelines for state-level contributors when documenting tagging practices at the state level. Please use the talk page to achieve consensus on "more standardized" tagging schemes.

Scope of this

The term "public lands" described in this wiki includes (but is not restricted to) open space land (or sea) in the United States of America designated for public recreation, areas set aside for protection or conservation of environment or culture, as well as public infrastructure, government buildings, etc. Specifically, this includes:

  • Federal, state, county and municipal level public lands (for whatever purpose, though environmental conservation and human recreation are an initial focus)
  • Conservation lands held for a public purpose managed by NGOs, such as the Audubon Society or The Nature Conservancy
  • Land trusts and other quasi-government land holdings held for a public purpose
  • Usually more-local areas such as water treatment plants, parking garages, landfills/recycling centers, industrial areas (e.g. power co-generation), water wells, city halls/offices, universities/colleges/schools, etc. which, while they are "public lands" and included in this scope, are noted as having distinct tagging that is often unique and difficult to comprehensively quantify and document in a wiki like this (this is repeated in the Local section). What is meant by this (initially) is to remind not to dismiss or exclude the notion of ownership=public, especially on more-local and distinctly tagged objects and areas.

The scope DOES NOT include:

  • Military areas (see: military=*)
  • The National Register of Historic Places (see: heritage=*)
  • Certain "Trails" which are otherwise better characterized by a route=* relation only, not a narrow right-of-way (ROW) of "public land." For example, a road owned by a county might have a narrow ROW correctly entered into OSM, or it might only have a highway=tertiary entered. But if that road (and its ROW) is also part of a National Scenic Trail (for example), that local road (and perhaps ROW) is/are not also a national-level "public land." It is much more correct to tag a route=* relation for the NST, not an (additional) geographic (multi)polygon of public land at a national level.

This page expands the United States table row(s) at Tag:boundary=protected_area#Protect_classes_for_various_countries, which document international standards for tagging of protect_class=* values for protected areas. The full scope of US public land tagging cannot be expressed in a single table row, so this wiki intends to be the most comprehensive guide available for tagging standards on these areas, which includes more than just the protect_class=* value.

General Tagging Guidelines

In general (unless it is public infrastructure), one of these five tags should be used as the primary tag to indicate public land:

  • leisure=park Smaller, general-purpose spaces, human-sculpted (not wild, but pleasing) specifically for public enjoyment and recreation (lounging, walking, perambulating a child or pet, tossing a ball or disk...). Often municipal in public level (not required); a "manicured urban space."
  • leisure=nature_reserve - Areas used for both preservation of nature and human enjoyment of that nature. These areas may include hiking/walking trails and basic facilities such as interpretive visitor centers. Rarely, this tag is applicable on areas which are not public (such as land trusts).
  • boundary=national_park - Larger parks used for general outdoor enjoyment, especially state parks. Such parks typically allow activities such as camping, hiking, boating and often have visitor facilities. Despite the tag value, USA usage has not limited tagging of "National Parks" strictly as they are defined in the USA (likely because this tag can render). On de jure National Parks (legally defined as such), use this tag.
  • boundary=protected_area - Areas specifically set aside for protection of the environment or places of cultural significance. Tag also with the appropriate protect_class=* tag. Note that some protect_class=* values include areas which are not public, such as "aboriginal lands" (in OSM), or (Native American) Indian Reservations in the USA.
  • landuse=recreation_ground - Spaces for specific recreational activities. In the USA, this includes what are known as "conference centers" on larger tracts of land, which often have organized sporting facilities and associated group events — these may be public or private.

These five form a core of what is specified here, though other tagging combinations emerge in this wiki. For example, Bureau of Land Management land actively leased for oil or gas extraction might be tagged landuse=industrial (or landuse=meadow on public land used for grazing). There are certainly other examples which fall outside of the "Existing 5" (like universities and prisons). There is an important distinction between boundary=protected_area and leisure=nature_reserve: the latter distinctly conveys more than simply protection of natural resources, it also includes simultaneous "human recreation" (implied by leisure). The leisure=park wiki may have more examples of tags that can be used on non-park, yet park-like areas.

Rendering Guide

Mappers are cautioned not to tag for the renderer. However, it is useful to understand how these tags (in various combinations) will render. A public land which renders in an unexpected way is often the first sign of improper tagging.

boundary=protected_area with protect_class=* between 1 and 6

In addition to these major tagging schemes, you may encounter the following combination rendered in the wild:

Park and protected_area rendered simultaneously
Park fill combined with border rendering: This rendering occurs when leisure=park is combined with boundary=national_park or boundary=protected_area with protect_class=* between 1 and 6. This is usually incorrect tagging. However, circumstances might exist in which a small park can also be classified as a protected area. However, it may be the case that an area that meets the definition of a leisure=park may exist within the confines of a larger protected area. In that case, tag only the smaller park with leisure=park.

Guidelines for tagging conservation areas

The  United States Geological Survey maintains the Protected Area Database of the United States (PAD-US), which attempts to comprehensively list information about all conservation areas in the United States. This database should be considered the default primary source for determining whether a specific  conservation area is managed in accordance with IUCN definitions. Because this data source is an aggregation over of 100 other databases, the data quality can may vary, and mappers should consult multiple sources when determining access and boundary information. Some states have more recent (or simply better) PAD data, for example, see Using_CPAD_data about such data in California.

The PAD-US database is available here:

Screen shot from the PAD-US Viewer showing  Shenandoah National Park and its IUCN Category.
Protected Area Database of the United States - Shenandoah National Park.png

Unfortunately, there are no reliable rules for determining which protect_class=* tag should be applied to a protected area based on its name or title alone. For example, most National Parks are assigned IUCN Category II, however, there are exceptions, such as the Petrified Forest National Park, which is not assigned to an IUCN category. The PAD-US database must be consulted in each case to determine whether an IUCN Protected Area Category applies and should be tagged with protect_class=*.

Tagging of IUCN Protected Areas

Protected areas which are assigned to an IUCN category should be tagged with a corresponding protect_class=* value as listed in the table below.

Mapping of IUCN Category to protect_class=*
IUCN Category protect_class=*
Ia protect_class=1a
Ib protect_class=1b
II protect_class=2
III protect_class=3
IV protect_class=4
V protect_class=5
VI protect_class=6

The base tagging for these areas is as follows:

Tagging of Other Conservation Areas

For areas that are not assigned an IUCN Category (listed in the PAD-US as "Other Conservation" or "Unassigned"), these areas should omit the protect_class=* tag. Note that these areas will still render in the default renderer based on the leisure=nature_reserve tag being applied. By omitting protect_class=*, it indicates that the area still meets the definition of a  protected area, but is not managed according to one of the seven IUCN category definitions.

The base tagging for these areas is simply:

National Public Lands

Several different US government Departments (Agriculture, Commerce, Interior..., via their Services, Administrations, Bureaus, etc.) manage federal public lands. These activities often overlap with "parks" as "park" is meant in US English. While some federal public lands are primarily for conservation of resources or even require minimal human interaction or disturbance (e.g. wilderness), many include human recreation as a primary or auxiliary activity. Yet others are leased for grazing, resource extraction or other uses. An initial crucial distinction might be to determine whether what OSM means by "protected" applies, as some public lands fail that test (for example, they are grazed or mined, not protected). The creation of national parks and forest reserves laid the foundation for the current federal agencies whose primary purposes are managing federal lands — the NPS, USFS, BLM and USFWS. These four agencies were created at different times, and their missions and purposes differ.

In addition to those lands protected and administered by the federal government, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) maintain significant national land holdings used for public purposes.

At the federal level, the "tagging seeds" specified below do NOT (perfectly, presently) describe existing tagging, they are not necessarily how we do tag. Rather, they suggest an idealized version of how we should tag (prescriptive, not descriptive). Please contrast this with the state-level tables (below) which do exactly the opposite (state-level tables are descriptive of tagging).

Federally Protected Areas

In addition to the tags in the sections (owner=*, etc.) and tables (protection_title=*, protect_class=* and Other Tags) below, tag federally protected areas with:

  • ownership=national
  • type=boundary (only on a relation; on a closed-way polygon, omit this)
  • boundary=protected_area
  • name=As issued by the owning Service, Administration, Bureau or managing Region or Unit
  • access=*, as many areas are open to public recreation. Possible values include yes, no, private, permissive, agricultural, forestry, discouraged or unknown.
  • fee=* where a fee is charged for entry.

The tag boundary=national_park should be removed from these areas where it exists (as incorrect tagging), unless it is a de jure National Park Service "National Park."

National Park Service

A sign for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington State
Main article: United States National Park Service, which comprehensively denotes NPS units grouped by protection_title=* and how complete are their relations in OSM.

National Parks (and many other types of units) are managed by the National Park Service (NPS), an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. Note that boundary=national_park is (and was, a tagging transition begins in 2020) also frequently applied to State Parks (states being as sovereign as the federal government for purposes of declaring a park a park). By way of explanation, given American English's wide definition of "park," many USA-based OSM contributors widely applied this tag to State Parks, especially as it can render (in Carto as a green boundary line when combined with area=yes).

In September 2020, it was reported that there are 418 National Park sites in the USA (NPS only, not counting any State Parks which may be tagged boundary=national_park). Some of these are actual, de jure National Parks (their name is suffixed with "National Park" — tag these and only these boundary=national_park) while others are administered by NPS and have slightly different tagging.

To the following tags, add the appropriate tags from In addition to in the above "Federally Protected Areas" list and protection_title=*, protect_class=* and Other Tags from the table below.

Tagging of National Park Service (NPS) Areas
Other Tags
National Park Service
Wilderness Area[3]
  • leisure=nature_reserve (if applicable because of human-allowed recreation)
  • note=Part of the National Wilderness Preservation System
National Park

National Monument[5]

For small park-like monuments in an (often urban) landscaped/maintained area

For national monuments created from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features

National Monument and Historic Shrine
  • National Recreation Area
  • National Seashore
  • National Lakeshore
  • National Wild and Scenic River
  • National Reserve
  • National Parkway
  • National Historical Park
  • National Historic Site
  • International Historic Site

One of these (depending on type of site):

National Preserve
  • National Battlefield
  • National Battlefield Site
  • National Military Park[6]
  • National Battlefield Park
National Memorial

One or both of these (depending on type of site):

  • National Trail
  • National Historic Trail
  • National Scenic Trail
  • National Recreation Trail
The full route of a National Trails should tagged with a route relation as described below. The tagging in this row is applied only to federal land that is dedicated to the trail, its immediate right of way, or trail-specific features along the route. Protected area tagging should not be applied to areas where the trail is routed over non-federal land, trails, and/or highways.
  • leisure=park for maintained/manicured dedicate federal park land

So for example, for a National Park, "adding together" the tags from the correct three segments of this wiki yields:

Regarding the NPS' designations of members of:

  • National Trails System
  • National Historic Trails
  • National Scenic Trails
  • National Recreation Trails (and connecting and side trails),

in short, see route=*. An argument can be made that these are much more like route=hikings, and don't really belong in a discussion of "public lands" (there is no "federal public land" except road right-of-way at a more-local jurisdiction / level-of-government). Mention of these is included here for completeness' sake in a discussion of NPS designations: they fall outside the scope of "federal public lands." It is correct to add historic=yes to National Historic Trails route=* relations.

Finally (in this NPS section), there is US_National_Park_Service_Tagging to guide tagging of roads, trails, road and trail restrictions, buildings, boundaries, natural features and various points of interest on NPS lands. Following the principle of "there should be only one authorative wiki for any standardized tagging scheme," US_National_Park_Service_Tagging might have its elements and those of its sub-wikis folded into this wiki (this is yet To-Be-Determined). Or, those might remain, but be purged of tagging recommendations, that task ceding to this wiki.

National Capital Parks

The National Capital Parks, a system of parks in the Washington, DC area, a Congressionally Authorized unit of the National Park System, but administration of the parklands is divided among several administrative units of the National Park Service:

These areas are tagged with the following base tagging. Additional tagging should be applied based on the actual features present on the ground in these unique properties:

Special Cases

There are a handful of NPS properties that do not fit under the definitions above. This table documents tagging decisions for these one-off cases.

Tagging of Miscellaneous National Park Service (NPS) Properties
Area protection_title=*
Other Tagging
US National Park Service

 Catoctin Mountain Park (relation 6248126)

  • boundary=protected_area
  • leisure=nature_reserve The area is generally wooded and has some trails within.

 Glen Echo Park (relation 13248618)

  • boundary=national_park
  • leisure=park Small park with a lot of concentrated amenities.

 Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (relation 6077602)

  • boundary=national_park
  • leisure=park The local consensus is that this is a park due to the recreational nature.

U.S. Forest Service

Main article: United States/Public lands/Forest Service

To the following tags, add the appropriate tags from In addition to in the above "Federally Protected Areas" list and protection_title=*, protect_class=* and Other Tags from the table below.

Tagging of U.S. Forest Service (USFS) areas
protect_class=* Other Tags
US Forest Service
National Forest 6
National Grassland 6
National Recreation Area 5
Wild, Scenic & Recreation River 5
Special Biological Area 4
Research Natural Area 1a
Wilderness Area[3] 1b
National Monument[7] 3
  • heritage=2 if the monument is on the National Register of Historic Places
Replacing proclamation boundaries
The ownership boundary is usually verifiable on the ground unlike the proclamation boundary.

All national forests have a "proclamation boundary," an area established by the federal government delineating areas that can be acquired by the Forest Service. Within these boundaries, national forest lands are often interspersed with non-Forest Service land. These lands are outside the control of the Forest Service and therefore are not actually part of the national forest.[6] Despite this, many national forests in OSM are mapped with their proclamation boundaries, showing vast swaths of private land as part of the protected area. Sam Houston National Forest (map) is an extreme example; most land within the arbitrary proclamation boundary isn't part of the national forest at all.

National forest proclamation boundaries should be replaced with their ownership boundaries, which show only Forest Service-owned land.

Bureau of Land Management

BLM lands (Ecological Preserves, Natural Areas, Research Natural Areas, some Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, some National Monuments, some National Recreation Areas and some Wild and Scenic Rivers) are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the United States Department of Interior.

BLM lands may be actively leased for resource extraction (mining, grazing, timber harvesting...), which precludes tagging with boundary=protected_area, leisure=nature_reserve, leisure=park, boundary=national_park or landuse=recreation_ground. During an active BLM lease, a landuse=* tag (e.g. with values of industrial, meadow or forest) may be appropriate, other tags are possible.

To the following tags, add the appropriate tags from In addition to in the above "Federally Protected Areas" list and protection_title=*, protect_class=* and Other Tags from the table below.

  • owner=United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management
  • operator=Name of the lessee (if there is an active lease by the BLM to a lessee)
Tagging of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Areas
protect_class=* Other Tags
Bureau of Land Management[7]
  • Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)
  • Ecological Preserve
  • Natural Area
  • Research Natural Area (RNA)
  • Wilderness Area[3]
  • Wilderness Study Area (WSA)

National Monument[8]

  • Cooperative Management and Protection Area
  • Forest Reserve
  • National Recreation Area
  • National Wild and Scenic River
  • Outstanding Natural Area
  • National Conservation Lands
  • Public Access Land

Regarding the BLM's designations of members of:

  • National Historic Trails
  • National Scenic Trails

in short, see route=*. An argument can be made that these are much more like route=hikings, and don't really belong in a discussion of "public lands" (there is no "federal public land" except road right-of-way at a more-local jurisdiction / level-of-government). This mention of these is included here for completeness' sake in a discussion of BLM designations: these fall outside the scope of "federal public lands." It is correct to add historic=yes to National Historic Trails route=* relations.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) lands and waters (National Wildlife Refuges, some National Monuments, Waterfowl Production Areas, National Fish Hatcheries, Endagered Species Program Ecological Services Field Stations, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, some Wild and Scenic Rivers and some Wilderness Areas) are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the United States Department of Interior.

To the following tags, add the appropriate tags from In addition to in the above "Federally Protected Areas" list and protection_title=*, protect_class=* and Other Tags from the table below.

  • owner=United States Department of Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service
  • operator=Name of the lessee (optionally, if there is a "concessionary" relationship by the USFWS to a lessee)
  • protected=perpetuity
Tagging of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Areas
protect_class=* Other Tags
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Wildlife Refuge 4
National Monument[9] 3
Waterfowl Production Area 6
National Wild and Scenic River 5
Wilderness Area[3] 1b
  • leisure=nature_reserve (if applicable because of human-allowed recreation)
  • note=Part of the National Wilderness Preservation System

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA waters (National Marine Sanctuaries, some National Monuments) are managed by the National Atmospheric and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

To the following tags, add the appropriate tags from In addition to in the above "Federally Protected Areas" list and protection_title=*, protect_class=* and Other Tags from the table below.

Tagging of NOAA Protected Areas
protect_class=* Other Tags
NOAA National Ocean Service
National Marine Sanctuary 4
  • leisure=nature_reserve (where applicable because of human-allowed recreation)
  • operator=United States Department of Commerce, National Ocean Service
National Monument[10] 3
  • operator=United States Department of Commerce, National Ocean Service
NOAA Partnerships
Marine National Monument 3
  • operator=National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;US Fish and Wildlife Service;partner government/organization[11]
National Estuarine Research Reserve[12] 4
  • operator=National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;partner government entity

Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is an agency within the  U.S. Department of the Interior. It is responsible for the administration and management of 55,700,000 acres (225,000 km2) of land held in trust by the United States for  American Indians,  Indian Tribes,  Alaska Natives and  Native_Hawaiians.

BIA reservations are tagged as follows:

Data Sources

The following data sources are available for US Federal Lands:

National Conservation Organizations

National conservation organizations, such as the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy maintain significant national land holdings for the purpose of conservation. While these organizations are privately held, they are normally operated as nonprofits and make their lands open for public enjoyment. As such, they are included here as "public lands". The National Conservation Easement Database is a useful directory to these lands. This table documents such organizations so that mappers can associate their standard, nationwide terminology with consistent tagging standards.

In addition to the table below, tag these lands with:

Tagging of Non-Government Protected Areas
Non-Governmental Organizations
Land protect_class=* Other Tags
Audubon Society Preserve 5 protection_title=Preserve
owner=National Audubon Society
Audubon Society Sanctuary 4 protection_title=Sanctuary
owner=National Audubon Society
Nature Conservancy Reserve 5 protection_title=Reserve
owner=The Nature Conservancy

Currently undocumented NGOs

(in progress. This section will have a consolidated table). Need to deal with:

  • Nature Conservancy Fee Land
  • Not all Audubon societies are the National Audubon Society (example: asri.org). In 2023, California's "Audubon" changed its name to "Golden Gate Bird Alliance."

Public Drinking Water Protection

The following general guidelines are recommended by default for tagging drinking water protection areas. State-specific guidelines that differ from these general rules are documented below.

State Public Lands

It is important to note that the tag boundary=national_park has also been applied to state parks, states being as sovereign as the federal government for purposes of declaring a park a park. However, it is a goal to reduce to zero this tagging going forward. So, for a "State Park,"

Tag boundaries:

Similar entities ("state beach," "state desert...") should also receive the boundary=protected_area and protect_class=* tags, with the protection_title=* having a value corresponding to the state entity's title. However, there are state wilderness areas which should be tagged nearly identical to national wilderness areas, as well as state forests and state monuments which also mimic national-level tagging. A good rule of thumb (as of 2022) is that how to tag a national park (forest, wilderness, monument...) largely guides how to also tag a state park (forest, wilderness, monument...).

Tag:boundary=protected_area#Protect_classes_for_various_countries says a "State Marine Reserve" (administered by a state-level Parks Department) is tagged the same as above, with the exception of protection_title=State Marine Reserve and name=*.

For a "State Marine Park," see "National Park Service National Monuments" (and tag appropriately, e.g. ownership=state).

For "State Habitat Area," "State Nature Preserve," "State Waterfowl Production Area," "State Wildlife Management Area," "State Marine Conservation Area," "State Marine Recreational Management Area," see "US Forest Service Special Biological Areas" (and tag appropriately, e.g. ownership=state).

For "State Conservation Area," "State Conservation Park," "State Ecological Reserve," "State Heritage Preserve," "State Managed Conservation Easements," "State Natural Area" and "State Wild and/or Scenic River" start tagging boundaries with:

and add

with appropriate values.

Again, "State Park" is sometimes tagged with boundary=national_park or as above (or similar). As of 2019, both tagging styles are extant in the USA on "State Parks," though inconsistently. It may be illustrative to inventory each of 50 states' present (2022) tagging practices (actual OSM data) as snapshots in this project, this is a significant effort to complete well, yet is very worthy to improve OSM. New York (state) has relevant recent (mid-2018) data harvesting and maintenance (into 2020) updates at NYS_DEC_Lands. Ahead are state data tables showing tagging in use by protect_class=* (for protected_area=*) and by "principal" tag (boundary=*, landuse=*, leisure=*, tourism=*). These tables describe existing tagging, how we do tag, not how we should tag (descriptive, not prescriptive). Please add new states into the tables as rows in similar fashion. (This may include improving tagging in your state as you do so, that is partly the goal of this).

Yes, the following two tables are complex. Especially for new users, please study them carefully before editing and be careful when you do. Enter how a state DOES tag now.

State public land areas by class of protection
State protect_class=*
1a 1b 2 3 4 5 6 7
Non Rendering[10]
Non Rendering[10]
Non Rendering[10]
(none) (all but 1 of) State Wildernesses,

all are subunits of / within State Parks,
(another polygon enclosed by the State Park is tagged 1b)

(some) State Parks(?)

State Marine Reserves

State Historical Monuments

State Marine Park

State Cultural Preserve/Reserve
(or, might be 5, 6 or 22)

State Natural Reserve

Wildlife Areas, CDFW •

Ecological Reserves, CDFW •

Undesignated lands, CDFW •

Public access lands, CDFW •

State Fish Hatcheries, CDFW •

Miscellaneous lands, CDFW •

(possibly others; in early stage categorization / enumeration)

(some) State Parks

(some) County Parks

(some) Regional Open Space Preserves

Desert Land Trust

Ecological Reserve

Tidelands Public Access

(this is messy; entities such as
(p)reserves wrongly have this value;
in early stage categorization / enumeration)

State Forest

Demonstration State Forest

State Wildlife Area

State Marine Conservation Area

State Marine Recreational Management Area

State Seashore

State Nature Preserve

(many or most of these seem tagged with wrong values)

Looking for state-level museum-containing,
education-oriented, maybe overlaps with historical. Filoli?

(some) State Parks State Historic Park / Historic State Park (or Site)

Filoli Center should this have ownership=state added?

California has some question marks, placeholders and may be missing named categories; rough structure now (2019-Q3).
  • The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), through its seven regional divisions, manages more than 700 protected areas statewide, totaling 1,177,180 acres (4,763.9 km2). They are broadly categorized as:

110 Wildlife Areas, designed to give the public easier access to wildlife while preserving habitats, 135 Ecological Reserves, which protect rare terrestrial and ocean species and habitats, 319 undesignated lands, 108 public access lands, 21 Fish Hatcheries (not five?) and 37 miscellaneous lands.

Connecticut (none) (none) Bluff Point Coastal Reserve (none) (none) (none) State Forest (1) (none) (none) (none)
Bluff Point Coastal Reserve is tagged boundary=national_park protect_class=2 leisure=nature_reserve. Paugusett State Forest is tagged boundary=protected_area protect_class=6. No other protected area tagging is observed as of 2019-06-27.
(none) (none) (none) (none)
  • Natural Environment Area (NEA)
  • Fish Management Area (FMA)
  • Heritage Conservation Fund Site (HCFS)
  • State Park (SP)
  • Rail Trail (RT)
  • State Forest (SF)
  • Natural Resource Management Area (NRMA)
  • Maryland Environmental Trust (MET)
  • Conservancy Easement Department of Natural Resources (CEDNR)
  • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
  • Chesapeake Forest Lands (CFL)
  • Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
(none) (none) Fire Tower (FT)
The classes listed for Maryland are based on the Maryland State Parks import of 2014, by User:ElliottPlack.
Massachusetts See Massachusetts/Conservation
New York (none) Wilderness Area

Wild Forest

Primitive Area

Canoe Area


Primitive Bicycle Corridor

Forest Preserve Detached Parcel

Adirondack Park

Catskill Park

Wildlife Management Area

Tidal Wetland

Freshwater Wetland

Natural Resource Area

State Unique Area

State Scenic Resource

State Forest [Environmental] Education Center State Campground

(some) State Parks

State Canal Park

Multiple Use Area

Waterway Access Area

Fishing Access Area


Palisades Interstate Park

State Historic Site
The Adirondack and Catskill Parks are sui generis entities that are given perpetual protection in the New York State Constitution. They are run as a public-private partnership. About half the land in the parks belongs to the State and is in one of these categories. The other half is in private hands and its development is closely regulated. The principal industries in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks are tourism, forestry, agriculture and mining. Uniquely in New York State, these two are tagged with boundary=national_park.

The 'Unclassified' category refers to Forest Preserve lands for which no State Land Master Plan has yet been established. All of the current Unclassified parcels are public-access and are de facto administered as Wild Forest.

New York also has classifications of 'Intensive Use Area', 'Administrative Area', 'Historic Area', 'Special Use Area', and 'Land Access' that are tagged on a case-by case basis.

The special classification of 'Forest Preserve Lands Under Water' is reserved to mark the portions of lake bottoms that are part of the Forest Preserve when part of the lake shore is private land. It is not mapped in OpenStreetMap.

The New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal corporation both maintain public-access recreational lands that adjoin the dams, reservoirs and canals, They are mapped case by case.

The special classification of 'Travel Corridor' is a classification of exclusion - travel corridors are not part of the Wilderness or Wild Forest that they traverse. They are not mapped other than by excluding them from the multipolygons of the enclosing feature.

Certain parks in the Hudson Valley are administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, a joint agency with the State of New Jersey.

New Jersey (none) (none) (none) Wildlife Management Area State Forest

(some) State Parks

State Recreation Area

Pinelands Preservation Area

Pinelands National Reserve Environmental Center (some) State Parks State-owned Historic Site
Pennsylvania (none) (none) (none) (some) State Parks State Forests

State Game Lands

(some) State Parks Natural Areas

Wild Areas

Wild Plant Sanctuaries

(none) (none) Historic Districts
Tennessee Barnett's Wood State Natural Area

Bellamy Cave

(some) pocket wilderness areas

(some) Class I Scenic Rivers

State Parks State Archeological Sites and Parks

Class I State Natural Area

(some) pocket wilderness areas

Class II State Natural Area

(some) Class I Scenic Rivers

(some) State Recreation Areas

Class II Scenic Rivers

Refuge/State Refuge

(some) city/county parks

State Forest

(some) State Recreation Areas

Wildlife Resource Area

Wildlife Management Area

Family Fishing Area

Catoosa Wildlife Management Area

(some) Conservation Easements

(some) Heritage Forests

(some) Wetlands Reserves

local Recreation Area

(most) agricultural easements

Army Compatible Use Buffer

Class III Scenic Rivers State Historic Sites

State Historic Parks

Tennessee's Class system is meant to organize relevant systems into easier to understand groups, but due to the patchwork status of it and inconsistencies with designations it adds a considerable level of complication. Also, since much of the protected areas are managed by different agencies, to include local county and city government, as well as some private stakeholders and conservation groups, some protected areas may have multiple separate and/or overlapping designations.

Barnett's Wood and Bellamy Cave are two areas in Montgomery County, TN which are protected as habitats for endangered species of plants and bats, and have active experiments regarding bat populations ongoing. Human intervention, while not strictly prohibited, is highly discouraged.

Cumberland Trail is particularly interesting, conventional and accepted wisdom says that it should be tagged as protect_class=5 but it mostly goes through a linear State Park through which the trail runs. It is not complete, and in some sections will only have a right of way when finished. The sections going through the state park should be protect_class=2 protected areas, and the right of way only sections should be tagged as protect_class=5.

Also, the entire state of Tennessee is listed as a National Heritage Area, which is a National Park Service designation. No current standard exists to tag these areas, but most would fall under heritage tags anyways.

State public land areas by "principal" tag (boundary, landuse, leisure, tourism)
State boundary=national_park landuse=forest landuse=recreation_ground or
leisure=nature_reserve leisure=park tourism=camp_site tourism=museum landuse=aquaculture
California There are 9 national parks
(strictly, not state public lands)
in California: Channel Islands,
Death Valley, Joshua Tree,
Kings Canyon, Lassen, Pinnacles,
Redwood, Sequoia and Yosemite,
enumerated here for "completeness"

(some) State Parks

Demonstration State Forest

State Forest

State Recreation Area

State Vehicular Recreation Areas
("Off-Highway Motor Vehicle" OHMV Parks)

(at least one) SNO-PARKs†

State Wilderness

State Reserve

State Wildlife Area

State Cultural Preserve

State Natural Reserve

State Marine Reserve

(some) State Parks (?)

(some) State Parks (?)

(There are believed to be 110 to 120 California State Parks, research continues)

State Historic Parks

(some) State Historic Sites (?)

Not applicable (found in California,
sometimes on public lands,
sometimes on private property)
(all?) State Historic Sites
State Fish Hatchery (total of 5,
is this Dept. of State Parks total?
There are said to be 21 CDFW • hatcheries, too)
California has some question marks, placeholders and may be missing named categories; rough structure now (2019-Q3). †The SNO-PARK program is coordinated and administered by the OHMVR Division of California State Parks, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Transportation, the California Highway Patrol, and various community organizations. Through this collaborative effort, winter recreation opportunities are provided at 19 SNO-PARK sites along the Sierra Nevada. Distinctive brown signs located along highways identify the SNO-PARKs. Recreational activities include snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and "snow play" (sledding, tobogganing).
Connecticut Bluff Point Coastal Reserve Salt Rock Campground Flood Control (3)

Natural Area Preserve (1)

State Forest (9)

State Park (37+5)

State Park Scenic Reserve (26+1)

State Park Trail (5)

Water Access (1)

Wildlife Area (7)

Wildlife Sanctuary (2)

Historic Preserve (1)

State Forest (2)

State Park (25+5)

State Park Scenic Reserve (5+1)

State Park Trail (2)

Water Access (1)

Wildlife Area (1?)

As of 2019-06-27, Connecticut's mapping of state facilities appears to follow little discernible pattern with respect to protection title. None of the five Fish Hatcheries is mapped. Only three of the many Flood Control areas (which are public-access recreation lands when not flooded) are mapped. One Historic Preserve is not mapped, Eight Natural Area Preserves are not mapped; one is a leisure=nature_reserve and one (Bluff Point Coastal Reserve) is mapped on separate polygons (not quite aligned) as leisure=nature_reserve, boundary=national_park and leisure=park. 21 State Forests are unmapped; nine are leisure=nature_reserve, two are leisure=park, one (which appears to be a campground) is leisure=recreation_ground, and one has protected area tagging without a principal land use indicated. State Parks are about evenly divided between leisure=nature_reserve and leisure=park; four remain unmapped and one is tagged landuse=winter_sports. Three State Park Scenic Reserves remain unmapped. There are dozens of Water Access and Wildlife Area that remain unmapped. None of the Other areas is mapped; these are a mixed bag for which anything from office=government to boundary=aboriginal_lands would be appropriate.
New York Adirondack Park

Catskill Park

Demonstration Forest

State Forest

Ski Area

Winter Recreation Center

Wilderness Area

Wild Forest

Primitive Area

Canoe Area


Primitive Bicycle Corridor

Forest Preserve Detached Parcel

Wildlife Management Area

Tidal Wetland

Freshwater Wetland

Natural Resource Area

State Unique Area

State Scenic Resource

State Forest

(some) State Parks

Multiple Use Area

(some) Waterway Access Area

(some) State Parks

(some) State Historic Sites


State Campground (most) State Historic Sites State Fish Hatchery
Other principal land use tags in common use for New York State conservation and recreational facilities - and applied where appropriate irrespective of the land classification include

landuse=brownfield, landuse=industrial (the DEC radio facilities, certain Administrative areas such as park maintenance depots), landuse=plant_nursery, leisure=fishing (Fishing Access Area, some Waterway Access Areas), leisure=golf_course, leisure=marina, and office=government (certain Administrative areas)

Some 'State Parks' in New York are large areas of undeveloped land with few or no 'front country' facilities; others are dedicated golf courses, marinas, or recreation grounds. These facilities are tagged as nature reserves, golf courses, marinas, recreation grounds; other state parks are tagged leisure=park.

New Jersey (none) State Forests often include other types of land, similar to national forests. So the landuse=forest tag should not be used (some) State Recreation Area Wildlife Managment Area


State Forest

(some) State Parks

(some) State Parks

(some) Historic Sites

Campgrounds (often within state parks and forests with different names) State-owned museums State Fish Hatchery
Pennsylvania All state public lands with this tag are in the process of being replaced with boundary=protected_area (none) (none) State Forests

State Game Lands

Natural Areas

Wild Areas

Wild Plant Sanctuaries

(some) State Parks

(some) State Parks Campgrounds (often within state parks and forests with different names) State-owned museums State Fish Hatchery

County Public Lands

County parks (and their ilk, like county beaches, where these exist) are more difficult to definitively tag, as newer consensus has yet to fully emerge. This is as the definition of leisure=park is now (2019) more narrowly construed to mean smaller "urban" parks (municipal, in/around a "settlement"), not more rural (sometimes larger) county parks and similar recreational areas. A major contributing factor to this is American English usage of "park." (There is a DIFFERENT usage of "park" in American English, used in western states, especially Colorado, where "park" means "a broad, flat, mostly open area in a mountainous region" — this is not what is meant here by "park"). OSM's leisure=park definition does not intersect well with what hundreds of millions of Americans call "parks" (especially "county parks"). This remains challenging in OSM in the USA, as many county parks were and are tagged with leisure=park and some (many?) feel these are often quite different from "human-sculptured, urban/municipal" parks, putting them at odds with the (newer, 2019) more precisely intended wiki definition of leisure=park.

As counties are "political divisions of states" there is an argument to be made that boundary=national_park, because it is extended to state-level, can be further extended to the county level. However, the worldwide OSM community would likely not applaud the USA having tens of thousands of national_park boundaries, so it does seem we need to develop a better tagging scheme for county-level parks, beaches, etc. Emerging is to tag boundaries:

Some counties support facilities with classifications such as 'County Forest', 'County Nature Preserve', and 'County Wildlife Sanctuary'. Tag these appropriately with landuse=forest or leisure=nature_reserve. (Even some areas with 'County Park' in the name belong in the leisure=nature_reserve category, if they have been left mostly in a natural state.)

Municipal Public Lands

The tags identified for county public lands can also be applied to "City Park," "City Preserve," City Natural Area," and so on. Well, nearly so, change protection_title=*, ownership=* and operator=* to obvious values, e.g. "City...," ownership=municipal and "City of ...". It is correct to use the quite-specific tag of leisure=park on many city parks — although there may be cases where leisure=nature_reserve is more appropriate, depending on the size and condition (natural vs. developed) of the park.

There are also many other kinds of public lands at the municipal level which do not overlap with human leisure / recreation. These include water treatment plants, parking garages, landfills/recycling centers, industrial areas (e.g. power co-generation), water wells, city halls/offices, universities/colleges/schools, jails and more. There are specific tags for all of these. This project can facilitate better tagging of these areas, especially by suggesting the inclusion of the ownership=* tag with one of its "public" values, such as ownership=municipal (and including operator=City of Name of City). Many of these lands have specific access, for example, a landfill closed to the public but otherwise open only to city residents benefits from tagging with access=permissive. Or, some industrial areas (sewage treatment...) may be access=no, except for school tours (as an example). If applicable and known, apply tag opening_hours=*. Please tag appropriately with as much data as are known.

New York City has extensive land outside the city limits that it owns in fee, for the purpose of keeping it undeveloped to protect the city's water supply (which is brought in from the Catskill Mountains and the Croton Valley by a system of hundreds of km of aqueducts, with minimal treatment). Over 500 km² of this land is open for public recreation in about four hundred areas. These areas are tagged leisure=nature_reserve, boundary=protected_area, protect_class=12, protection_object=water, protection_title=Watershed Recreation Unit, operator=New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Water Supply The related law is complex, founded in a provision of the state constitution:[11]

The legislature may by general laws provide for the use of not exceeding three per centum of [Forest Preserve] lands for the construction and maintenance of reservoirs for municipal water supply, and for the canals of the state.

The related law thought to be of most relevance to map users, and therefore included in the related_law=* tag, is the "NYCDEP Rules for the Recreational Use of Watershed Lands and Waters".[12]

The boundaries of the watershed recreation areas were brought in by an import in June of 2016 and regularly updated.

Public Lands Managed by Non-Government Organizations

Some areas have public-access lands that are managed by organizations other than governments. Frequently, governments recognize these with titles such as "Conservancy Easement," "Conservation/Natural Area," "Local Land Trust Easement," and "Local Land Trust Preserve." One resource for accessing spatial data to these conservation properties is the National Conservation Easement Database, managed by the Trust for Public Lands.

National or multi-state organizations that are known to maintain such properties include (not an exhaustive list, and presented in no particular order): the Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, the Open Space Institute, Ducks Unlimited, and the Appalachian Mountain Club. There are also hundreds if not thousands of private conservancies maintaining public-access facilities.

Once again, it appears that the tagging can mirror that on county and municipal facilities, with appropriate changes to protection_title=*, ownership=* and operator=*.

boundary=protected_area should not be used for these areas unless the governing law or policy is known. For example the Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville, New York, has no conservation easements (all of its land is held in fee simple) and is not accredited as a land trust (although that is the corporate purpose on its certificate of incorporation). While it is now investigating the possibility of pursuing these approaches to secure additional protection for its land, in the past it did not because its management jealously guarded its independence.

Ownership Tagging

The tag ownership=* has been used in a few states to document the type of ownership associated with a park. The tags park:ownership=* and park:public_level=* have been proposed as a possible replacement with park-related aspects of ownership implied by that key exclusively. There is also site_ownership=* which has overlap with ownership=*.

Legacy (discouraged) Tagging

The following tagging schemes are determined to be no longer used and should be replaced when encountered in the wild:

  • The tag park:type=* should not continue to be used. While there are thousands (perhaps only hundreds now) of usages according to taginfo, this tag is in the process of being deprecated. Talk:Key:park:type step-by-steps a strategy to do this in California, a moderate-sized task.

See also


  1. Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, Congressional Research Service [1]
  2. Apple MacOS X Mojave (US English) Dictionary, "park," (noun) Definition 1 (US variant)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 [2]
  4. See Talk:United States/Public lands#national_park_vs_protected_area
  5. See Talk:United States/Public lands#national_park_vs_protected_area
  6. “Lands and Acquisitions”. U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved 5 May 2021. 
  7. Other BLM lands may or may not use boundary=protected_area. This tag is appropriate for entities such as marine protection areas, heritage sites, wilderness, cultural assets and similar. Other BLM lands (gas/oil production, meadow...) may not fit these categories, but if one does, use this tag and an appropriate protect_class=* tag. Check the protect_class wiki to see if an existing value is appropriate. It is correct to omit this tag on certain BLM lands (e.g. industrial). Ask yourself if the land is "protected" and tag.
  8. 8.0 8.1 If known, or else use value unknown. Possible values on BLM land include yes, no, private, permissive, agricultural, forestry or discouraged.
  9. It may seem redundant to add nature_reserve on NWRs, but this tag is found on NWRS lands (because it renders?) An important consideration if this tag is included on wilderness is that human leisure activity / recreation (hiking / backpacking, perhaps resource gathering — acorn harvesting, hunting / trapping with proper permits, downed-wood gathering for campfires if permitted — perhaps light-use camping) is allowed, if so, please include this tag.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 These protect_class values do not render in the default renderer and are not widely used. Consider whether these areas can be tagged with some other tag. See protect_class=* for alternative tagging.
  11. New York State Constitution, Article XIV, section 2, as amended 1953. [3]
  12. New York City Department of Environmental Protection regulations, chapter 16: "Rules for the Recreational Use of Watershed Lands and Waters." [4]

External links