A python script is used to assign conservation (GAP Status Code, IUCN Category) and recreation access (Public Access) measures, in the absence of other information, to ensure complete attribution of these fields in the PAD-US database. This is applied to new areas (without locally assigned measures) and areas transferred from previous PAD-US versions where GAP Code Source, IUCN Category Source or Public Access Source = GAP - Default (indicating default categorical assignment). Areas transferred with locally assigned or reviewed measures are exempt from this process.
The script assigns GAP Status Code, a national measure of management intent to protect biodiversity, directly from a crosswalk by Designation Type, assuming the least biodiversity conservation value appropriate for that designation type across the nation. Thus, it is likely categorical assignments of GAP Status Code underestimate biodiversity protection. For example, the default GAP code for Local Park is 4 (indicating no known biodiversity protection mandate) as many Local Parks are developed areas. A particular Local Park may be assigned a higher GAP Code following GAP or partner review.
The script assigns IUCN Category, a global measure of management intent to protect biodiversity, by GAP Status Code, Designation Type, and size (GIS_Acres). IUCN defines protected areas as those primarily managed for biodiversity. Only GAP Status Code 1 and 2 areas meet this definition and are assigned IUCN management categories. In addition, some management categories are separated by size. For example, National Monuments in PAD-US less than 5,000 acres are assigned IUCN Category = III (National Monument or feature) while those greater than 5,000 acres are IUCN Category = V (Protected landscape / seascape).
The script assigns Public Access, the general level of public access permitted in the area (Open, Closed, Restricted, Unknown), by Designation Type. For example, National Parks are categorically Access = Open, while Conservation Easements are assigned Access = Closed in the absence of other information.
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