About DCR
State Parks
Soil and Water
Dam Safety and

Information Services Overview

Publicly Available Data ▼
Data available by Subscription▼
Environmental Review Services▼
Once you've determined which services you need:

The Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Natural Heritage (DCR) is responsible for the identification, protection, and stewardship of Virginia's natural heritage resources.  Natural heritage resources(NHRs) are defined as the habitat of rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species, rare or state significant natural communities or geologic sites, and similar features of scientific interest.  DCR maintains Biotics 5, a data system that is the most comprehensive and up-to-date repository of natural heritage resource information available.  Information on potential impacts to natural heritage resources is crucial to a comprehensive environmental assessment of proposed developments or activities.  DCR is committed to providing its clients - including public agencies, private institutions and individuals - the best available natural heritage resource data consistent with protection and security of these resources.

Our information products range from lists of rare plants, animals and communities in Virginia, online GIS applications and a statewide GIS coverage of natural heritage conservation sites. Many of these services are available to the public free of charge, while some require signing a license agreement and an annual subscription for access to the data.


(You'll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view or print (PDF) files.)

Natural Community and Rare Species Lists

Hardcopy lists of plants and animals that are ranked as rare by the Natural Heritage Program are available as PDF documents for download. These lists contain global and state rarity ranks and Federal and State legal status listings. The natural communities document contains the complete state classification in hierarchical format, with all ecological community groups, community types, USNVC crosswalks, global and state ranks.

The Natural Communities of Virginia, 2nd Approximation (Version 2.6) is available as an online interactive tool providing comprehensive information on exemplary natural communities in Virginia. This web version is richly illustrated with photographs of natural communities and includes hyperlinks to the National Vegetation Classification and to photographs of many plant and animal species mentioned in the text.

Our database is continually growing and you can help contribute to the knowledge of rare species in the Commonwealth by providing observation data to us via a rare species sighting form. Please include a photograph(s) whenever possible to help in confirmation of the observation. Please contact an appropriate staff biologist if you have questions or concerns on species identification, breeding status or distribution/range in Virginia prior to submission. Thank you for your efforts to increase the knowledge of Virginia's biodiversity.

Internet Database Searches of Natural Heritage Resources

Nearly 10,000 occurrences of over 1600 natural heritage resource elements are documented in Virginia. A searchable database on the Internet allows users to identify what kinds of resources occur in specific counties, watersheds or physiographic regions. A variety of geographic and taxonomic criteria are available to customize your search.  Information about specific natural heritage resources include scientific and common names, rarity ranks, and federal and state protected status information. These reports are not site specific and are NOT to be substituted for a project review or for on-site surveys required for environmental assessments of specific project areas.

Conservation Lands and Conservation Planning Data, Maps and Information

Conservation Lands data can be downloaded from the DCR-Natural Heritage Conservation Lands database website. And, anyone can access all mapped Virginia Conservation Lands and associated information in the interactive map viewer on Virginia Natural Heritage Data Explorer (NHDE). This tool also allows query of the Conservation Lands Database and map making with this and many other reference layers (boundaries, aerial photography, streams, etc.). The Virginia NHDE also provides interactive mapping access to Virginia Conservation Vision, as suite of Green Infrastructure models used for conservation planning through Virginia.


Digital Natural Heritage Conservation Sites Data: In order to protect sensitive natural heritage resources, precise locations are not released in the products identified below. Conservation sites are tools for representing key areas of the landscape that warrant further review for possible conservation action because of the natural heritage resources and habitat they support. Conservation site areas are polygons built around one or more rare plant, animal, natural community or geologic features, designed to include the element and, where possible, its associated habitat and buffer or other adjacent land thought necessary for the element's conservation. Conservation Sites are given biodiversity significance ranks based on the rarity, quality, and number of element occurrences they contain. Conservation sites should act as caution flags to identify potentially sensitive areas during planning efforts. Center points should not be interpreted as precise natural heritage resource locations, nor should sites be considered buffer zones for natural heritage resources contained within them.

Conservation sites in digital format can be very useful when incorporated into a geographic information system (GIS) with other spatial information for display and analysis. DCR can provide locations of natural heritage resource conservation sites digitally for comprehensive planning, to assist with planning for a specific project or as a general screening tool for identifying potential problems. The expectation is that more specific projects and data needs will be referred back to the Division of Natural Heritage for further analysis and recommendations.

DCR Digital Data Conservation Sites Subscription Service.

This service offers the following features:

  • digital natural heritage conservation sites data for a specified study area, including site name, biodiversity ranking, site description and acreage.

  • routine data updates, provided quarterly for one year

Annual Subscription Charge

for limited areas (county-sized or less, or involving 12 or fewer USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles)..........$1000/year

for regional areas (involving 13-100 quadrangles).....$3500/year

for statewide coverage...$6000/year


Virginia Natural Heritage Data Explorer (NHDE)
Virginia NHDE provides users with an interactive map for:

  • displaying a variety of data layers, including county boundaries, roads, streams, watershed boundaries, conservation lands, various conservation priority layers and statewide topographic and aerial photography.
  • selecting and identifying specific features such as rare species, conservation sites, and karst resources.
  • submitting project boundaries to DCR to receive a detailed environmental review report

This application and the data layers it contains are designed for:

  • Following state, regional and national land conservatin goals
  • Assessing specific details on conserved lands (e.g. public access, management details, acreage values, etc.)
  • Mapping targets for land acquisitions and easements
  • Identifying priorities for restoration activities
  • Local and regional planning
  • Conservation Planning
  • Screening projects for potential impacts to natural heritage resources

Individuals cannot subscribe directly to Virginia NHDE, but subscription is available to organizations (agencies, companies, and non-profits). Click here to see a list of currently subscribing organizations.

Annual Subscription Charge:

Unlimited access (by subscription only, must complete a license agreement)...$1000/year

License for Use of Digital Conservation Sites Data and/or NHDE.

All use of digital conservation sites data provided by DCR, whether by public agencies or private parties, is governed by the DCR-DNH License for Use of Digital NHR Data, which dictates conditions for use, requires periodic update, and proscribes distribution of data to third parties.

The DCR License must be signed before any use of natural heritage data in digital form, whether those data were provided digitally directly by DCR, via access to the NHDE online application or transformed by the client into digital form from paper reports, tables, or maps provided by DCR.


Project review assesses the potential impacts of a specified project on natural heritage resources. DCR research will identify all documented occurrences of natural heritage resources from the project area (including an appropriate buffer based on the scope of the project),and may also identify potential species occurrences. If potential impacts are identified, the response will list key natural heritage resources with scientific and common names, Natural Heritage Program rarity ranks, federal and state protected status information, with recommendations for resource protection.

Most natural areas in Virginia have not been thoroughly surveyed, and new occurrences of plant and animal species continue to be discovered. For this reason, DCR's response or data cannot be considered a definitive statement on the presence, absence or condition of biological elements on a particular site. Heritage reports summarize the existing information known to DCR at the time of the request and should not be substituted for on-site surveys required for environmental assessments.

Available Services & Costs

Please note, there are price increases for some project review services effective Jan 5, 2009. The information services order form has also been updated to reflect these changes. It is available in two versions: an online fill-in form, or if you experience difficulty with the online form version, please print, fill out and send this PDF version: Printable PDF Information services order form.

Project Review:
if natural heritage resources are identified
an additional charge will be assessed of $35 for 1-5 occurrences and $60 for 6 or more occurrences. Multi-quad project area $90 per quad.

Project Review with Accompanying Map $250 per site; for projects with potential impact to Natural Heritage Resources, written comments with 8.5 X 11 map displaying Natural Heritage Screening Coverage

Separate sites are considered separate requests even if submitted under the same cover letter.

Data requests are usually filled within 30 calendar days of receipt.
Priority responses can usually be completed within 5 business days for a surcharge of $500.

Custom Distribution Maps:
Custom maps for any area of interest can be produced with GIS. Call to negotiate specifics (804) 371-2708.