Natural Heritage Resources for Biodiversity Protection Planning
The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has many resources available to help municipalities, land trusts, watershed associations, and others with planning for biodiversity protection at the local or regional level.
BioMap2: Conserving the Biodiversity of Massachusetts in a Changing World
The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and The Nature Conservancy have just completed BioMap2, an enhanced biodiversity conservation plan that updates and will replace the original BioMap (2001) and Living Waters (2003) plans. BioMap2 is designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation in Massachusetts by focusing land protection and stewardship on the areas that are most critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and other native species and their habitats, exemplary natural communities and a diversity of ecosystems. The 60 page summary report and a poster are now available from the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.
Town Core Reports and Town Core Habitat Maps are not currently available for BioMap2
Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats, effective October 1, 2008
The revised GIS datalayer of Priority Habitats represents the geographic extent of Habitat of state-listed rare species in Massachusetts based on documented observations from the last 25 years. Priority Habitats are filing triggers for proponents, municipalities, and other stakeholders for determining whether a proposed project must be reviewed by the NHESP for compliance with the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA). Estimated Habitats are for use with the Wetlands Protection Act regulations (310 CMR 10.00). The revised Estimated Habitats datalayer contains polygons that are a subset of Priority Habitats. They do not include areas delineated for rare plants or for rare wildlife with strictly upland habitat requirements. These revised Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats are the product of a statewide revision of Priority Habitat and Estimated Habitat boundaries to reflect the latest state-listed species data, understanding of species biology and habitat requirements, and GIS technology and data. For more information about endangered species review, please see the Regulatory Review section of the NHESP website.
Revised Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats can also be viewed in:
- Natural Heritage Atlas, 13th Edition - 189 pages of full-color, 11 x 17 maps covering the entire state, available for purchase from NHESP
- Natural Heritage Atlas CD Viewer - statewide coverage of Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats using the MassGIS Data Viewer software, available for purchase from NHESP
- Interactive Web Viewer that zooms to a site and shows Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats with color aerial photos
- Large Priority Habitat and Estimated Habitat maps sent in September 2008 to the Conservation Commission and Planning Board of each town or city in Massachusetts
Note to conservation land managers:
There are important exemptions from review for projects or activities in Priority Habitat in the MESA regulations (321 CMR 10.14), including: The active management of State-listed Species habitat, including but not limited to mowing, cutting, burning, or pruning of vegetation, or removing exotic or invasive species, for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing the habitat for the benefit of rare species, provided that the management is carried out in accordance with a habitat management plan approved in writing by the Division.
Comparison of BioMap and Living Waters Core Habitats with recently published Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats.
|Core Habitats||Priority Habitats & Estimated Habitats|
|Publication||BioMap (2001) & Living Waters (2003)||Natural Heritage Atlas, 12th Edition (2006)|
|Data as of||2000 (BioMap)
2002 (Living Waters)
|Purpose||Conservation Planning||Priority Habitat - MESA Regs
Estimated Habitat - WPA Regs
|Scale of Delineation||Drawn collectively at a conservation planning scale||Drawn individually at a regulatory scale|
|Inclusion of MESA Species||Biodiversity signficance and long-term viability of occurrences||Observed within the last 25 years; Excluded some lower quality populations|
|Inclusion of Other Elements of Biodiversity||Natural communities, clusters of vernal pools, important breeding/migration habitats for birds, bat hibernacula, high quality aquatic habitats||Not Applicable|
Town Lists of Rare Species Occurrences, updated September 2009
For each town in the Commonwealth, the NHESP website lists all of the MESA-listed species that have been observed in that town. The species list also gives the most recent year of observation. These lists were last updated in July 2006 and will be updated on a regular basis. View town lists.
Massachusetts List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species and Rare Species Fact Sheets
The online version of the Massachusetts List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species contains links to rare species fact sheets that describe the habitat, life history, and distribution of that plant or animal.
NHESP Natural Communities, September 2006
This GIS datalayer contains the locations of natural communities of biodiversity conservation interest in Massachusetts. These locations are based on observation records maintained in the NHESP database. Program scientists classify and delineate natural community polygons by analyzing "on-the-ground" field data and available information about the landscape (particularly topographic maps and aerial photographs). For each polygon in the datalayer, there is a general description of the natural community type as well as a specific description of the particular natural community at the site.
The NHESP Natural Communities datalayer was released in September 2006 and is available from MassGIS. The datalayer contains 657 occurrences of natural communities. Please view our Natural Community section for more information about natural community classification and fact sheets about several natural communities.
Certified Vernal Pools, updated January 2010
and Potential Vernal Pools (2000)
The GIS datalayer of vernal pools that have been certified by the NHESP was updated on MassGIS in January 2010, adding more than 600 pools to the data layer for a total of 5583 certified vernal pools statewide. This Certified Vernal Pool datalayer will be updated at regular intervals.
The GIS datalayer of Potential
Vernal Pools is also available from Mass GIS. This is a datalayer
of the locations of more than 29,000 potential, unverified, vernal pool
habitats that were identified from aerial photographs. This survey represents
a tremendous leap forward in the protection of vernal pools by providing
the most complete picture available to date of the number and distribution
of vernal pools across the Commonwealth. The statewide coverage of Potential
Vernal Pools is also available in a standalone, CD
Viewer format, which is available for purchase from NHESP.
Read our Vernal Pools section for more information about vernal pools and their certification. NHESP also sells a full color Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools (Third Printing, May 2009) by Leo Kenney and Matthew Burne, which provides an excellent reference to the specialized creatures that depend upon vernal pools.
Check here for other NHESP Publications.
Natural Heritage Contact Information
Lynn Harper, Habitat Protection Specialist, is available to advise land trusts, conservation commissions, and other conservation groups on how best to protect biodiversity through land conservation. Lynn can be reached at 508-389-6351 or Lynn.Harper@state.ma.us.
For general questions or to request publications from NHESP:
Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
1 Rabbit Hill Road
Westborough, MA 01581
Phone: (508) 389-6360
Fax: (508) 389-7891