There is a significant disparity in the protection of terrestrial and marine environments in the United States. Despite the considerable literature dedicated to the subject of protected areas, both terrestrial and marine, in the United States, we are not aware of work explicitly describing this dichotomy. We compared marine and terrestrial areas under federal jurisdiction to provide a quantitative assessment of the differences between the conservation of land and sea in the United States. Specifically, we compared national marine sanctuaries (including sanctuary preservation areas and ecological reserves) with national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges (including national wilderness preservation areas). Our results suggest that marine sanctuaries are fewer in number, smaller in total area, and smaller in percentage of area covered than are terrestrial protected areas.
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Comparison of marine and terrestrial protected areas under federal jurisdiction in the United States