TRACK THE FATE OF PROTECTED LANDS AND WATERS. is the world’s most comprehensive database of efforts to scale back national parks and other protected areas globally.



What is Protected Area Downgrading, Downsizing, & Degazettement (PADDD)?

We think of national parks and other protected areas as permanent fixtures on the landscape, but they are not necessarily permanent. New research reveals widespread legal changes to protected areas that relax restrictions (downgrade), shrink boundaries (downsize), or eliminate protections completely (degazette). As restrictions are scaled back, the natural benefits and values within the areas can also be lost. Although scaling back protections does not necessarily undermine conservation, most changes globally are related to industrial-scale resource extraction and development, land uses inconsistent with conservation objectives.

In response, is documenting the patterns, trends, and causes of PADDD. Through a better understanding of PADDD, we can ensure that protected areas realize their full potential for nature conservation and climate change mitigation, providing vital benefits for humanity.

Join us as we explore the state of protected areas on a global scale.



Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, U.S.

The United States government downsized Bears Ears National Monument by 4,657 square kilometers (85%) in 2017 - the largest reduction to protected lands in US history opening lands to mining exploration.


Bears Ears photo: BLM/Flickr

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New study published in Science explains where, when, and why protected areas have been scaled back around the world.


Protected Area Downgrading, Downsizing & Degazettement


Protected areas are widely considered the cornerstone of conservation. But laws governing protected lands and waters are increasingly being altered around the world – restrictions are relaxed, boundaries shrunk, and sites are eliminated entirely.


A clearly defined geographical space, recognized,dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.


We classify legal changes that scale back protected areas in three ways:



A decrease in legal restrictions on the number, magnitude, or extent of human activities within a protected area.



A decrease in size of a protected area as a result of excision of land or sea area through a legal boundary change.

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A loss of legal protection for an entire protected area.



Between 1892 and 2019, 73 countries enacted more than 3,700 PADDD events, affecting an area the size of Mexico. Between 1944 and 2017, 24 countries proposed more than 800 PADDD events.

Most (62%) enacted PADDD events globally are related to industrial-scale resource extraction and development, including infrastructure, industrial agriculture, oil and gas, and mining.

Rollbacks to protected areas appear to be increasing – most events (78%) were enacted since the year 2000

The United States and Brazil are emerging hotspots of PADDD.




In 2010, the governor of Rondônia degazetted (eliminated) ten conservation units and downgraded or downsized four additional sites, authorizing the construction of the Jirau hydroelectric dam.


Jirau Hydroelectric Dam photo
by Divulgação / outubro 2012



Interested in learning more about PADDD? You can download the data here.



Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo

In 2006, the DRC government downgraded Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, by granting an oil concession on lands overlapping the protected area. Although oil exploration was halted in 2014, DRC’s 2015 Hydrocarbon Code enables oil exploration within all protected areas in the country.