Natural Heritage Mission and Overview
The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) is responsible for the conservation and protection of Massachusetts' biodiversity. Our highest priority is the approximately 176 species of vertebrate and invertebrate animals and 256 species of native plants and their habitats that are officially listed as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. The Program, founded in 1978, is part of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and one of the Programs forming the Natural Heritage network. The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Advisory Committee oversees and guides NHESP activities.
Our goal is the protection of the state's wide range of native biological diversity. We work towards this goal through:
Biological Field Surveys and Research - Data are gathered on the numbers, distribution, and conservation needs of rare species and exemplary natural communities. (See Conservation and Species Information)
Data Management - Over 14,000 recent and historical records of rare species and natural community occurrences in Massachusetts are maintained in the NHESP database. These site-specific data are used to direct conservation efforts in the form of research, land protection, habitat management, and endangered species regulation. These data help NHESP develop town-specific biodiversity information and GIS resources useful for regulation and conservation planning.
Endangered Species Regulation - NHESP reviews over 1,500 projects annually under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and the Wetlands Protection Act. Each project is analyzed for its potential impact on state-listed species and their habitats. (See Regulatory Review and MESA List)
Rare Species Recovery and Ecological Restoration of Key Habitats - NHESP has reintroduced several rare species and, through species and habitat management, has increased the state's population of dozens of others. (See Conservation and Habitat Restoration)
Land Protection - The rare species of Massachusetts are threatened primarily by habitat loss and degradation. To help protect Massachusetts' biological diversity, the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife acquires land targeted as critical to conservation. (See Land Protection and Planning)
Education - NHESP has produced a variety of publications including "A Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Massachusetts", "A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools", as well as a poster depicting vernal pools and the species that live in them. Other publications include individual fact sheets for state-listed rare species and natural communities, and guidelines for vernal pool certification. Please visit our Publications for a complete listing.
Funding - The Natural Heritage Program was removed from the state's operating budget in 2004. Since then, the Program has been funded by project-specific bond monies, fees, federal grants, and voluntary contributions. A major source of funding for the protection of rare and endangered species in Massachusetts comes from voluntary donations on state income tax forms. All contributions go to the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, which currently is the source for a significant portion of the annual operating budget of the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. Over 20,000 tax filers support the program each year. If you have made a contribution in this manner, thank you for supporting the Program and its conservation efforts! Contributions can also be made directly to the fund by sending a check payable to "Comm. of MA - NHESP" to the address below.
Please contribute to endangered wildlife conservation on your state income tax form. Endangered species conservation in Massachusetts depends on you!