Commission for Environmental Cooperation

Apr 26, 2010 (Last modified Feb 2, 2013)
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Terrestrial and Marine Protected Areas for North America.

Since 1994, Canada, Mexico and the United States have collaborated in protecting North America's environment through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The international organization called the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was established through these agreements to:

  • address regional environmental concerns
  • help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts
  • promote the effective enforcement of environmental law

One of the many spatial datasets the CEC is attempting to standardize among the three countries and present to the citizens of North America is a protected areas layer – one focused on terrestrial sites and another on marine environments.

The unifying theme for terrestrial protected areas is conservation status code developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  According to this body, a protected area is an "area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means."  The IUCN codes, which provide information on management objective include

I: Strict nature reserve/wilderness area (managed mainly for science or wilderness protection)
II: National park (managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation)
III: Natural monument (managed mainly for conservation of specific natural features)
IV: Habitat/species management area (managed mainly for conservation through management intervention)
V: Protected landscape/seascape (managed mainly for landscape/seascape protection and recreation)
VI: Managed resource protected area (managed mainly for sustainable use of natural systems)
Unknown: Primary management objective is not known

Data sources for the terrestrial protected areas for the continent (2007) include:
1) Mexico - National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) as well as a dataset of state, municipal, and Distrito Federal (D.F.) protected areas from the Nature Conservancy, Pronatura, and the National Commission for knowledge and use of biodiversity (CONABIO)
2) USA - Protected Areas Database (PAD) version 4 from the Conservation Biology Institute
3) Canada - World Database on Protected Areas. 

An update is currently underway and will published upon completion.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were also originally aggregated by the CEC and are also available.  Included in this dataset are those areas of North America that are managed by national, state, provincial, or territorial authorities. These areas are important to enhance and strengthen the conservation of biodiversity in critical marine habitats throughout North America. 

Updates are planned.

Click here to see more information on the CEC.

Recommended by Tara Starr Marvin
Kai Henifin. 2010. Commission for Environmental Cooperation. In: Data Basin. [First published in Data Basin on Apr 26, 2010; Last Modified on Feb 2, 2013; Retrieved on May 24, 2024] <>

About the Author

Kai Henifin
Climate and Fire Resilience Coordinator with Pepperwood

I am a Project Manager and Senior GIS Specialist with more than a decade of experience working with diverse stakeholder groups to co-produce high quality science information that is accessible to a wide range of people, both technical and non-technical. I have an expertise in developing, managing...