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Natural Heritage Conservation Sites

Website: www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/
Contact: Jason Bulluck, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 600 E. Main St., 24th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219, (804) 786-8377, email jason.bulluck@dcr.virginia.gov

DCR's Natural Heritage Program staff manages the state's most comprehensive biodiversity database. It contains almost 10,000 locations of natural heritage resources, which are defined as the habitat of rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species, unique or exemplary natural communities, and significant geologic formations.

Statewide map of conservation sites. Click the above map for a larger view.

Conservation sites are a tool for representing key areas of the landscape worthy of protection and stewardship action because of the natural heritage resources and habitat they support. Terrestrial conservation sites are boundaries that contain one or more rare plant, animal or natural community. Sites are designed to include the element and, where possible, its associated habitat and buffer or other adjacent land needed for the element's conservation. For rare aquatic species, Stream Conservation Units (SCUs) identify stream reaches that contain aquatic natural heritage resources, including upstream and downstream buffer and tributaries associated with these reaches. There are more than 1,800 terrestrial and SCU site records in the conservation sites coverage. These sites encompass all reliable, extant element occurrences documented in our data system. Conservation sites and SCUs are given a biodiversity significance ranking based on the rarity, quality and number of natural heritage resources they contain.

Conservation sites have numerous conservation uses. They are used to identify land management needs and protection priorities (about 50 percent of conservation site acreage is in private hands). They are also used as a screening tool, to identify potential conflicts with road construction and other development activities, and for proactive planning to ensure that development projects successfully avoid or benefit natural heritage resources.

DCR makes conservation site data available through a subscription service to licensed public and private partners of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program.