Pennsylvania Core Habitat


The dataset was developed as part of the County Natural Heritage Inventories, and along with Supporting Landscape, appears as part of the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program's Natural Heritage Areas. The results of the County Natural Heritage Inventories are intended for use in landuse planning by state and local government officials, environmental and development consultants, and developers. The Inventories are also intended to be a resource to inform educators, conservation organizations, and other interested citizens regarding local rare species, natural communities and other natural resources.

Data Layer Description


Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

What this data layer represents

Core habitats are areas containing plant or animal species of concern at the state or federal levels, exemplary natural communities, or exceptional native diversity. Core habitats delineate essential habitat that cannot absorb significant levels of activity without substantial impact to the elements of concern.


a)      Pennsylvania

b)      1:24,000


This shapefile contains the Core Habitat of Natural Heritage Areas identified through the County Natural Heritage Inventory project of the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. County Natural Heritage Inventories (CNHIs) focus on areas that are the best examples of ecological resources in a county. Although agricultural lands and open space may be included as part of inventory areas, the emphasis for the designation and delineation of the areas are the ecological values present. Important selection criteria for County Natural Heritage Areas are the existence of habitat for plant and animal species of concern, the existence of uncommon or especially important natural communities, and the size and landscape context of a site containing good quality natural features. Large areas and areas that are minimally disturbed by development provide the backbone that links habitats and allows plants and animals to shift and move across sizable portions of the landscape. Core Habitat areas are intended to identify the essential habitat of the species of concern or natural community that can absorb very little activity or disturbance without substantial impact to the natural features. Polygons are based on aerial photo interpretation, field surveys, and existing PNDI data and were delineated by the ecologists on-screen using ArcView (ESRI, Inc., Version 3.3, 8x, and 9x) with the 1:24,000 scale USGS Digital Raster Graphics and/or Digital Aerial Photography images as a background. For each core habitat polygon, the attribute table contains fields indicating the Site Name and Significance. See individual CNHI reports for further information on methodology, site descriptions, and species or communities found at each site.

These data represent information that can be used to guide County Planning and Conservation. Use of the information in the report does not replace Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) Environmental Reviews which may be required for specific projects. By acceptance of this data, the user agrees to include a copy of this metadata record, including the liability disclaimer, whenever the user transmits or provides the GIS Data (or any portion of it) to another user.

How to get the data layer

The CNHI reports are available for download at

Links to a GIS map service of the CNHI dataset are available at

To obtain a copy of CNHI dataset contact:

Christopher Tracey
Conservation Planning Coordinator
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4718

How you might make use of this data layer

This dataset is intended as a tool in planning to avoid the accidental destruction of habitats supporting species of concern at both the county and municipal levels. CNHIs have been incorporated into comprehensive plans, consulted to plan development projects, and utilized by conservation organizations to prioritize their work. Additionally, these studies have been used to help in the development of recreational amenities, promotion of tourism industries and assistance in community development.

How to get more information

The CNHI reports contain further information on methodology, site descriptions, and species or communities found at each site. The reports are available for download at the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program website

Sample Map

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