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Natural Heritage Data Explorer

Department of Conservation and Recreation's
Virginia Natural Heritage Data Explorer

Natural Heritage Data Explorer (NHDE) is an ArcGIS Server based interactive mapping application that anyone can use to map the conservation status and conservation values of lands. To subscribers (organizations), NHDE provides additional sensitive data pertaining to Natural Heritage Resources for web-based, site specific environmental review.

The NHDE is a combination of three tools used to access Natural Heritage, Conservation Lands, and conservation planning data and information, and used to obtain Environmental Review services.

  1. Natural Heritage Database Search. The public can search the Natural Heritage Resources data via a tabular "Database Search" available on the Virginia DCR-Natural Heritage (DCR-NH) homepage. With this tool, one can search the database for species and natural community location information, based on conservation status, state and federal listed status, and within specific counties, physiographic provinces, watersheds and subwatersheds as identified by the user. Users can then print search results in a PDF table.

  2. Land Conservation Data Explorer (LCDE). Since 2006, the public has used this ArcIMS-based interactive mapping website to view and query spatial data pertaining to the conservation status of lands, as well as mapped conservation values of lands throughout Virginia. The LCDE provided access to the Conservation Lands database so users could analyze maps of conserved lands, as well as conserved status, ownership and other information. Map layers of various conservation values were also provided by the Virginia ConservationVision, as well as many reference and boundary map. This site was intended for public use for tracking land conservation progress in Virginia, and for use by conservation non-profit, local and state government staff for making land use decisions and conservation planning.

  3. Natural Heritage Data Explorer (NHDE). Also since 2006, conservation partners (organizations) have subscribed to the interactive NHDE mapping website to access sensitive Natural Heritage Resources data. This site did not provide the breadth of conservation planning data and map layers as the LCDE, as its purpose was focused more on site-specific environmental review. Subscribers could submit proposed site-specific projects to DCR-Natural Heritage via NHDE, thereby starting an official project review process.

In Spring, 2013, these tools were consolidated in a single, revised, improved, and more comprehensive NHDE. All original functions have been retained and improved on the new NHDE, and many new features have been added as well. With the new NHDE all users can:

  • use 20 map layers that summarize conservation status and conservation values of lands, and provide reference and boundary layers, such as roads, streams, planning districts, localities and watershed boundaries
  • use 8 basemap options available with all map data layers, including high-resolution aerial photography, streets and topographic maps
  • use an array of map navigation tools to support viewing and analysis
  • identify specific features in all map layers to get more information
  • search back-end data associated with map layers by entering text, or selecting features on the map. Search results can be instantly viewed in a list and within the map window. For example, Conservation Lands can be searched by type, management agency or size, as well as searched based on other map layers, such as county or planning district.
  • import data to the map viewer via published mapservices or your own shapefiles
  • make custom maps for printing or sharing, using rich mark-up and labeling tools
  • search the DCR-Natural Heritage Database to generate tabular reports summarizing rare species and natural communities by conservation status ranks; federal and state listed status; county boundaries; watershed boundaries and more.

In addition to these publicly accessible features, organizations (agencies, companies, and non-profits) can also subscribe to NHDE. Subscriptions can be requested online (see Help Document pages 20-21 for creating an account and/or a subscription). In addition to uses listed above, NHDE subscribers can:

  • view, select and identify specific features on the map pertaining to Natural Heritage Resources, such as rare species, conservation sites, karst resources and predictive models of species distribution
  • submit project boundaries to DCR directly through NHDE and receive a detailed report on potential impacts to Natural Heritage Resources. Project boundaries of any size can be digitized on screen, or uploaded via shapefile.
  • provide and administer site access to other individuals within their organization

As a condition of registration, all subscribers are required to sign a License agreement and/or Memorandum of Agreement guaranteeing their adherence, and the adherence of all persons whom they shall authorize to use this website, to applicable Terms and Conditions. All users of this website, whether direct subscribers or authorized representatives of subscribers, are required to adhere to these Terms and Conditions.

Subscribers are also required to participate in introductory training for NHDE. This training, taken in person, greatly expedites the efficient use of the site. Training opportunities are provided year round and throughout the state. See the right bar on this page for upcoming training sessions information.

NEW -Training for the upgraded Natural Heritage Data Explorer (NHDE)

On-site hands on training will be offered at the following locations and on these dates:

NEW DATE! April 7, 2015 - Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality - Richmond, VA

Training and NEW usernames/
passwords are required for access to the new upgraded ArcServer NHDE website which replaced the former ArcIMS site in April 2013. As space is limited, please sign up now by clicking here to send an email with your contact information and desired training location. Specific times will be finalized based on participation.

LandScope America

The Virginia Natural Heritage Program is a pilot member of Landscope America, a collaboration between NatureServe and the National Geographic Society. A onestop online resource, Landscope provides an interactive map viewer for users to bring together maps, data, photos and stories. LandScope is a comprehensive, one-of-a-kind tool that can guide local and statewide land conservation planning and priority-setting.

Visit the Landscope Virginia site to read about conservation priorities in Virginia


View an interactive map of priority conservation areas in Virginia.

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