Protected areas of the United States

Protected areas of the United States

The protected areas of the United States are managed by an array of different federal, state, tribal and local level authorities and receive widely varying levels of protection. Some areas are managed as wilderness while others are operated with acceptable commercial exploitation. By international definitions, the United States had 7448 protected areas, not counting marine areas, as of 2002. These protected areas cover 578,000 square miles (1,500,000 km²), almost 16% of the land area of the United States. [ [ United States - Biodiversity and Protected Areas - Country Profile ] ] This is also one-tenth of the protected land area of the world. U.S. marine protected areas cover an additional 347,000 square miles (900,000 km²) with varying levels of protection.

Some areas are managed in concert between levels of government. The Father Marquette National Memorial is an example of a federal park operated by a state park system while Kal-Haven Trail is an example of a state park operated by county-level government.

Federal level protected areas

Federal level protected areas are managed by a variety of agencies, most of which are a part of the United States Department of the Interior. National parks, which are managed by the National Park Service are often considered the crown jewels of the protected areas. Other areas are managed by the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is claimed to provide 30 percent of the recreational opportunities on federal lands, mainly through lakes and waterways that they manage.

The highest levels of protection as described by the IUCN, the international conservation agency, are Level I (Wilderness areas) and Level II (National Parks). The United States maintains 12% of Level I and II lands in the world. These lands had a total area of 210,000 square miles (540,000 km²).

A confusing system for naming protected areas results in some types being used by more than one agency. For instance, both the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service operate areas designated "National Preserves" and "National Recreation Areas". Both the NPS and the Bureau of Land Management operate areas called "National Monuments". "Wilderness Areas" are designated within other protected areas managed by various agencies and sometimes wilderness areas span areas managed by multiple agencies.

*List of areas in the National Park System of the United States
*List of National Wild and Scenic Rivers
*List of BLM protected areas
*List of U.S. National Forests, includes National Grasslands
*List of USFS protected areas
*List of U.S. Corps of Engineers protected areas
*List of U.S. marine protected areas
*List of U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
*List of U.S. Wilderness Areas
*List of Biosphere Reserves in the United States

There exist Federal designations of historic or landmark status that may support preservation via tax incentives but do not necessarily convey any protection, including listing on the National Register of Historic Places or designation as a National Historic Landmark. States and local zoning bodies may or may not choose to protect these. [The state of Colorado, for example, is very clear that it does not set any limits on owners of NRHP properties. See [ "National and state registers", at Colorado Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation] ]

tate level protected areas

Every state has a system of state parks. State parks vary widely from urban parks to very large parks that are on a par with national parks. Some state parks like Adirondack Park are similar to English national parks with numerous towns inside the borders of the park. About half the area of the park, some 3 million acres (12,000 km²), is state-owned and preserved as "forever wild". Wood-Tikchik State Park in Alaska claims to be the largest state park by the definition of contiguous protected area. It is some 1.6 million acres (6500 km²) in size, larger than many U.S. National Parks. Some states operate state game areas and state recreation areas.

* U.S. state parks in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
*List of U.S. state and tribal wilderness areas

Local level protected areas

Various county, city, metropolitan authority, regional park, township, soil conservation district, and other units manage a variety of local level parks. Some of these are little more than picnic areas or playgrounds but others are extensive natural areas. The South Mountain Park/Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona is called the largest city park in the United States. It spans 25 square miles (65 km²) and contains 58 miles (93 km) of trails.


External links

* [ National Landscape Conservation System (BLM)]
* [ National Park Service]
* [ National Forest Service]
* [ National Wildlife Refuge System]
* [ U.S. Marine Protected Areas]
* [ National Wild and Scenic Rivers]
* [ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation]
* [ Read Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding US National Wildlife Refuges]

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