As the Welsh Government's historic environment service, Cadw is charged with protecting the historic environment of Wales, and making it accessible to members of the public. To this end, in 2010–11 it identified four aspects of its work; it would take measures to conserve the heritage of Wales, its ancient buildings and monuments; it aimed to sustain the distinctive characters of the different landscapes and urban areas; it would try to help people understand and care about their country, their locality and its history, and the place of Wales in the world; it aimed to improve the wellbeing of people in Wales.
Cadw is responsible for the care and upkeep of three World Heritage Sites in Wales: the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape.
Many of these listed sites are in private ownership, but Cadw has a specific responsibility for the care and upkeep of the 127 historic sites that are in state ownership. Many of Wales' great castles and other monuments, such as bishop's palaces, historic houses, and ruined abbeys, are protected and maintained in this way, as well being opened to the public. Cadw has been appointed by the Welsh Government and is the successor body in Wales to the Ministry of Works.
Cadw also identifies (and develops to criteria for identification) of historical assets in Wales. In 2011 there were 29,936 listed buildings in Wales ; of these, 493 were the most important Grade I listed buildings, 2,124 were Grade II* and 27,319 were Grade II listed. Most of these were in private ownership. Also in Wales were 4,175 Scheduled Monuments, 6 Designated historic wrecks, and 523 Conservation Areas; these designations means that the buildings or objects concerned are protected by statute. A register of significant Welsh battlefield sites is also under preparation.
There are 58 Historic Landscapes and 376 Historic parks and gardens in Wales. Cadw is also undertaking urban character studies of urban areas. Eight had been completed by September 2013. Combined with a register of buildings and ancient monuments at risk these aim to enable management decision making and grant allocation to strengthen the character of different areas.