There are 23 national parks in Poland. These were formerly run by the Polish Board of National Parks (Polish: Krajowy Zarząd Parków Narodowych), but in 2004 responsibility for them was transferred to the Ministry of the Environment. Most national parks are divided into strictly and partially protected zones. Additionally, they are usually surrounded by a protective buffer zone called otulina.
In Poland, as amended by the Nature Conservation Act, 2004, a national park "covers an area of outstanding environmental, scientific, social, cultural and educational value, with an area of not less than 1000 ha, which protects the whole of the nature and qualities of the landscape. A national park is created to preserve biodiversity, resources, objects and elements of inanimate nature and landscape values, to restore the proper state of natural resources and components and to reconstruct distorted natural habitats, plants, habitats of animals and habitats of fungi."
The area of a national park is divided into different zones using separate methods of conservation. There are strict protection zones, as well as active and landscape-related ones.
The areas bordering national parks have been designated as buffer zones. The buffer zone can include protective areas of game animals, in which hunting is not permitted. National parks are available to visit, but only in designated areas, and along specific trails, roads, and paths.