Development of a GIS-Based Conservation Planning Toolkit for State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Priorities at the Roan Highlands, North Carolina and Tennessee

Project Description

Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy created an accessible and secure GIS-based toolkit for the globally significant Roan Mountain Massif, which enabled the integration of SWAP data into local government land use planning decisions in 3 counties in North Carolina and Tennessee in which Roan is located.

Project Map

Publicly Accessible: Yes
County: Mitchell County, NC
Project Size:
  • 92000.0 acres

Project Sites

  • Roan Highlands

Goals and Targets

Primary Motivations:

  • Conservation Mission

Primary Goals:

  • Identify at-risk properties through SWAP and modeled data analyses, and use the tool kit to communicate the importance of protecting such properties through land and conservation easement acquisitions. Use the toolkit in seeking public funds and private matching dollars to achieve land protection transactions.
    Progress: Geospatial files assembled for the project base map and models were used for immediate analysis and mapping needs during the project. Suggested boundaries and existing property parcels were delineated on a series of slides to support the creation of a new State Natural Area located within the southern region of the project area (See figure 2). These images relied on ecological systems data, biological & wildlife habitat assessments and digital elevation models collected or developed for the WCS funded project. The images were used in a series of meetings with agency and NGO stakeholders. Final model results identified over 100 high priority conservation tracts within the project boundary. The results were compared to GIS files depicting existing conservation lands to identify opportunity areas.
  • Foster greater collaboration and coordination among conservation organizations and local planning through standardized data, tools and project participation
    Progress: Development of GIS datasets in the 2nd quarter fostered collaboration between SAHC, the GIS Consultant, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (TN & NC), the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). The GIS consultant met with the principle GIS designer of the TN WAP from TNC-TN for file sharing and technical advice for implementing project objectives. The director of TWRA’s GIS program contributed the latest 2008 TN WAP priority files for terrestrial, aquatic, and subterranean conservation targets. Representatives from TNC-NC & SAHC, and the GIS consultant met in the 2nd quarter to review WAP priority areas and immediate conservation targets. A series of maps and presentation materials were generated from this meeting and used in meetings with NC Heritage and WRC officials for the designation of a new State Natural Area.
  • Provide local planning officials in the 3 counties surrounding the Roan Mountain massif with standardized data layers depicting SWAP priority areas, property parcels, and land and water conservation activities for in the region
    Progress: Inventories and data acquisitions were completed in the 2nd project quarter. Project team members met with representatives from Avery, Carter, and Mitchell Counties to promote the use of data products and modeling approach. Meetings were held with regional planning and conservation partners in the winter-spring of 2009. These meetings focused on an introduction to the concepts of the SWAP planning tool. Modeled results and approach were highlighted during these meetings as well.
  • Provide these layers as web mapping services and GIS media to facilitate their analysis with existing datasets
    Progress: The USGS NBII program provided access to the infrastructure necessary to create web mapping services with modeled data results for the project area. Initially NBII partners at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville were set to host the data; however, due to staff changes in the Knoxville partner office, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosted file modeled data on NBII project equipment.
  • Provide a one-stop site for data needed in the Roan Mountain conservation planning Process
    Progress: All project datasets and GIS toolkit applications were delivered to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Asheville office. The datasets are hosted on SAHC’s geospatial data server. SAHC will serve as the one-stop repository for all things “Roan Highlands” in the region.

Consistent With Plans:

  • Habitat Conservation Plan
  • Forest Plan
  • Species Recovery Plan
  • Federal Land Management Plan
  • Land Trust Strategic Conservation Plan
  • Nature Conservancy Ecoregional Plan
  • State Wildlife Action Plan

Targeted Habitats:

  • Aquatic
    • Lakes and Ponds
    • Rivers and Streams
  • Forests and Woodlands
    • Conifer Forests
    • Deciduous Forests and Woodlands
    • Mixed Hardwoods and Conifer
  • Shrublands and Grasslands
    • Alpine and Subalpine Habitats (Meadows, Parklands and Shrublands)
  • Special Types
    • Caves and Subterranean
    • Cliff and Canyon
  • Wetlands and Riparian Habitats
    • Forested or Shrub Wetlands and Swamps
    • Marshes, Bogs and Emergent Wetlands
    • Montane Riparian Forests and Shrublands

Targeted Species:

No targeted species were identified for this project.

Conservation Actions

Action Status Start Year End Year
Develop a voluntary conservation plan Completed 2008 2009
Education Completed 2008 2009
Research Completed 2008 2009


Is the success of this project's actions being monitored? Yes

Monitoring Activities
SAHC will continue to work with the GIS Toolkit and regional NGOs. Acquisition of conservation lands and use of data in long term county planning will mark success.

Lessons Learned and/or Suggestions for Similar Activities
Seamless regional ecological systems layers from the USGS GAP program can play a crucial role in addressing defeciences between state SWAP geospatial products. Regional conservation NGOs or planning offices play a vital role in data managment and training for low resource county organizations.

Quick Facts

Owning Organization

Wildlife Conservation Society

Managing Organization

Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy
(Non-Governmental Organization)

Contact Information

Carl Silverstein (Executive Director)
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

General Information

Project #: 1764
Last Updated: January 17, 2011

Project Relations


A Carroll GIS
Open Space Institute
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy


Public SWAP Toolkit

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