© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

Coastal Virginia Ecological Value Assessment (VEVA)


The Coastal Virginia Ecological Value Assessment (VEVA) dataset combines scientific data and best professional judgment to rank terrestrial and aquatic areas on a 1-to-5 scale of ecological value, with 5 representing the highest conservation priority. These values can be used to prioritize areas for preservation, develop strategies for special area management actions, or to build awareness about Virginia’s ecological integrity throughout the Coastal Zone.

Data Layer Description


Virginia Department of Environmental Quality- Coastal Zone Management Program

Virginia Commonwealth University- Center for Environmental Studies

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Divisions of Natural Heritage and Stormwater Management

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Virginia Institute of Marine Science Center for Coastal Resources Management


Coastal Zone counties of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Scale: 1:100,000


The Coastal Virginia Ecological Value Assessment (VEVA) was developed to be a comprehensive, GIS-based tool to guide the land use and conservation planning of local governments and planning districts in the Coastal Zone of Virginia. Coastal VEVA improves upon and replaces the former Priority Conservation Areas (PCA) data layer. The PCA was developed in 2008 to combine several existing GIS conservation priority datasets. including the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Priority Wildlife Diversity Conservation Areas; VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation Division of Natural Heritage Conservation Sites Layer (CSL) and Natural Lands Network (NLN); and VCU Center for Environmental Studies Aquatic Resource Integrity Layer (NOAA grant FY08 NAO8NOS4190466, Task 11.02). In 2010, these same state partners were joined by DCR-Division of Soil and Water and Virginia Institute of Marine Science-Center for Coastal Resources Management to update and enhance the PCA.  This consisted of updates to datasets previously included in the PCA, the inclusion of VIMS’ Aquatic Priority Conservation Areas layer, and the inclusion of Virginia’s Healthy Watersheds data, as identified by VCU-Center for Environmental Studies.

Coastal VEVA synthesizes important natural resource information in one geospatial layer for guiding conservation planning, natural resource management, land use management and public awareness of the general ecological values of areas throughout the Coastal Zone. This dataset is not intended to replace on the ground surveys or consultation with biologists as appropriate, but is intended to be a thorough first step to enable efficient consideration of natural resources and ecosystem function early in any planning process. These data do not constitute official legal or technical advice.

This project was funded in part by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program at the Department of Environmental Quality through grant number NA10NOS4190205 of the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under the Coastal Zone Management act of 1972, as amended.

How to get the data layer

Download it at VA DGIF's GIS site.

Or view it at Virginia DEQ Coastal GEMS.

How you might make use of this data layer

Coastal VEVA is a generalized geospatial dataset intended to guide initial conservation planning or blue-green infrastructure efforts. All areas within the VEVA are important; the 1-5 values are subjective rankings based on expert opinions and the best available information. It is recommended that priority be given to sites with the highest ecological value in consultation with a biologist. The data can be used in the planning process to identify areas that could be considered for open natural space value, recognize parcels that may be zoned for conservation, find areas for potential easements, distinguish areas that would benefit most from low impact development measures, or pinpoint areas where additional development can be focused, so that areas that can be conserved or strategically zoned in a compatible use to preserve ecological integrity. Users should also consider protection and management of entire watersheds, as impacts to headwaters areas have cumulative effects on downstream priority features such as rivers and wetlands.

Local data not included in the VEVA data layer can be added and used to adjust the value of specific entities’ interests where appropriate.  The Analysis Toolset in ArcGIS provides a variety of overlay tools that can be used to add data to the VEVA data layer and then use those local data to refine the rankings of lands and waters in the VEVA layer. Since the VEVA includes both green infrastructure (e.g. terrestrial biodiversity, wildlife diversity) and blue infrastructure values (e.g. Healthy Watersheds, ecologically valuable estuarine resource areas), the VEVA output map allows one to begin to visualize the benefits of comprehensive conservation planning in one place. 

How to get more information

Visit the Virginia CZM Blue Green Infrastructure Mapping and Planning Efforts site.

Or view the layer's formal metadata.

Sample Map

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